Social Withdrawal: Part of the New Normal?

The class has been scheduled for 8 am tomorrow. 72 others have liked your post. You still have two assignments pending, due this weekend. Not to mention that test whose syllabus you still don’t know, and frankly, you don’t even care anymore. Let’s not even talk about the Whatsapp spam messages, ranging from flowery “Good Mornings” on the family group to all the pictures of the practical files and the never-ending diagrams. That item in your wishlist is now on sale. Congratulations, you have one new match. New episodes of your favorite series are out; save to Watch Later?

Your phone dings with one more notification, and it takes all of your willpower to not throw it out of the window.

The pandemic brought a whole host of problems with it, but here is one that is seldom spoken about; the desire to completely withdraw into a shell. To not reply to any messages, not attend any class (even if it’s just waking up to log in and go back to sleep), to just be left alone for a while. The whole barrage of messages day in and day out can be overwhelming, to say the least.

Each day blurs into the other, and you can barely remember anything striking about the day when you hit the bed. Schedules and sleep clocks have been thrown off whack, and the uncertainty makes it all the worse. Will college reopen? Will the third wave really impact us as much as before? You try not to think about it and get on with your day, but there is barely anything to keep you busy. You struggle to find the motivation or even the energy to do the things that once brought you happiness. Sure, you have an ambitious to-do list, but like Jerome K Jerome once said, “It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do.”

Advances in technology have made the world available at your fingertips, but it has a flipside like everything else. The advent of cellphones and instant messaging services across many platforms means that the world easily has access to you, whether you like it or not. What makes it worse is the notion that if one is sitting at home, they definitely have their phone in their hand, so instant replies are expected. And this is where the problem arises.

Can we please normalize the idea that not everyone wants to talk all the time? Some people need time to “recharge” for every minute they spend socializing? Some people wish to spend their free time focussing on themselves or their top priorities. I can have my phone in my hand, I can see your message, and I can still not want to reply to it at that moment. It is not a reflection of our relationship, neither is it me acting pricey or too busy for you. It is simply an act of self-care where I choose to prioritize myself and my mental health.

Don’t get me wrong, I love talking to people and being a part of the conversation. But some days, just replying to all messages can be draining. Having the enthusiasm to have a chat can get too tiring, especially when staying at home leads to the same discussions repeatedly. It seems like there is a dearth of new topics to talk about.

I also want to clarify that withdrawing into my shell is not an excuse for shirking duties. If my friends ever need me, I will be there at the drop of a hat, regardless of what I’m going through. But I also want them to understand that the days they have the energy, I may not. Maybe I’m not in the mood, or I just want to be left alone, and honestly, I don’t owe anybody any explanation for wanting to cut off for a while. Some days you just have to do the bare minimum, and that is more than enough. It is incredibly refreshing to talk to like-minded individuals or friends who get what you are going through. Friends you can talk to after days or weeks, and there is no gap in the relationship. True friends are those who understand not only your words but also your silences.

Taking time off can help you sort your thoughts and emotions and help you find increased levels of motivation to work. It is important to remember that we are, after all, humans and not robots. To pause and reflect is perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves during this pandemic. “In the rush to return to normal, let’s use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”


Written by Shivangi Acharya for MTTN

Edited by Asma Abidin for MTTN

Featured Image by Koren Shadmi

Artwork by Gabriel Silveira

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