The past couple of weeks have been unlike anything we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. With unprecedented illness and restrictions spreading across the world, it can be a scary and unpredictable world infiltrating and disrupting our lives. Not to mention the extreme sadness and grieving millions are experiencing across the world. Times are tough and remaining indoors or separated from family and not being able to see friends truly becomes isolation for not only our physical world but our thoughts and alone time to process and experience our emotions.
While physical distancing is assisting in flattening the COVID-19 curve, social isolation is proving to be challenging for millions in the thick of it across the globe. The desire to stay connected with close friends and family is greater than ever with our loved ones front of mind during this global pandemic.
Adolescent Clinical Psychologist and CEO of online school mental health program, Open Parachute, Dr. Hayley Watson, suggests that staying connected to friends and family online is an excellent way for young people to temper their fears about the Coronavirus and feelings of isolation due to social distancing.
Dr. Watson suggests meeting online with your personal friend group through platforms like Snapchat, Zoom, Instagram, etc. are all beneficial ways to get through this pandemic together, apart.
In relation to meeting with friends on social networking platforms, new data from Snap Inc. reveals young adults are increasingly concerned about the pandemic, but the use of digital communication is assisting us to stay in touch with friends and remain informed on the ever-changing news cycle.
During these troubling times, the majority of Snapchatters have been using the platform to stay connected with friends and family (66%). Others continue to focus on “distractions” such as watching TV shows and movies (48%) to help stay calm. Although the situation seems strenuous at the moment, 47% have said that spending quality time with friends and family is a positive outcome from this situation.
Dr. Watson says one of the pieces of the research she really loved was the idea that Snapchatters know everything about self-hygiene, from washing their hands and protecting from germs, but users do not necessarily have the recourses to cope with anxiety and loneliness during self-isolation. This is why it’s so important for young adults to have fun with their friends in an online setting, which is a huge asset for coping with mental health during these turbulent times.
In response to this, Snapchat has introduced an important tool for users called the Here For You tool. Snapchatters only need to search for mental health, anxiety, depression, suicide, and related topics within the search bar, they will be served with content from experts like Dr. Watson.
Not only is the virus challenging our mental health but disrupting our relationships with our family and friends, but preventing romantic relationships to progress with apps like Bumble and Hinge advertising virtual dating features to their users, and members seeking “isolation buddies”. So it begs the question is it a healthy time to jump on a Zoom date and virtually drink ourselves into a new romantic virtual relationship?
Dr. Watson says, “We really want to be paying attention to how it makes us feel. There’s nothing wrong with meeting someone online, we have to be aware of the context just like anything else. We don’t know their background, we need to make sure we are aware of what we know and what we don’t know. If people keep that in mind and have that sort of healthy awareness then there’s a lot you can share online. I think there’s nothing wrong with that, and especially for people that are living alone and are in a space where they’re not connecting to anyone, there’s absolutely no problem with reaching out and doing that.”
Dr. Watson goes on the add the dangerous implications and aspects that meeting online can bring like choosing a partner that may not be right for us and to recognize we might end up making different choices because we’re lonely. “So we might say, oh that person isn’t that great, but they’re a distraction and it’s better than nothing.”
Dr. Watson adds, “It’s important to ask ourselves why am I doing this? Is it because I’m lonely or is it because this is a really nice connection that feels like an interesting intimate experience for me.”
Dr. Hayley Watson’s top tips for staying connected during turbulent times:
TIP ONE: Make a plan. Help each other create self-care plans. That could include regular digital check-ins with your friends every day or week, just like you’d do offline. Once these are created, use your friends to stay accountable and stick to your plans.
TIP TWO: Communicate openly. Regularly share how you feel with your close friends, but avoid mass updates. Apps like Snapchat enable closed communication through small virtual networks that are similar to how we interact offline, mimicking our humanity digitally.
TIP THREE: Have fun. During stressful times, it’s important to let off steam and have fun with your friends. There are loads of online games and technology such as Lenses and Bitmojis that help you take the seriousness out of the situation and be a bit silly. Friendships are meant to be fun, so without making light of the current situation, you are still permitted to have fun with your friends.
“We can use online platforms to offer forgiveness, kindness, and hope to each other near and far. In doing so, we strengthen our own sense of purpose and meaning. By reaching out and connecting openly and honestly, I believe our youth have the potential to come out of this crisis with a profound sense of camaraderie and resilience that will serve them long into their future,” Dr. Watson adds.
Feature Image Source: Forbes