Bonding during the pandemic

AFTER almost a year of living in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s not surprising that many of us are feeling a sense of isolation.

Whether one is a student, working adult or retiree, a lot of us are living through a bizarre period where we are forced to sacrifice real face time with our friends and family in order to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Many of us have adapted to the different degrees of movement control orders which limit our freedom to spend time with loved ones who do not live with us, colleagues or friends at school.

It’s important to assess how we feel mentally and emotionally, especially when we’re separated from those who are close to us. During difficult times, it’s natural for us to want to connect with those who play a huge role in our lives, which is why I find it encouraging that many have moved their conversations to mediums like messaging apps and online platforms to stay in touch.

While working with Snap Inc (creators of Snapchat) on their recently released Friendship Report, I found out that 85% of Malaysians have been keeping in touch and maintaining their relationship through digital communication. The majority of those we surveyed (81%) said they were using online channels more than they would have before the outbreak of Covid-19. This resonates with how we find comfort in the familiarity and closeness of friendships we cultivate in our lives.

Living during a pandemic has shown us how resilient we truly are. Whether we are catching up through video calls, playing games or by sending each other a snap, digital communication is a staple in the way we communicate when we are apart.

In fact, one would be surprised to learn that people are becoming closer and more intimate even when physically distanced. From our survey, we found that friends have been bonding on a closer level during the pandemic, with 59% saying their conversations through online channels have actually been deeper rather than on the surface only.

So, what can we do to connect or reconnect with our friends? Fortunately, being in the digital age, virtual spaces provide the means for us to do so. Whether it’s attending online classes together, playing video games or letting loose at a virtual concert, we have outlets to interact with people we care about and keep the relationship healthy even if we can’t do it in person.

Although the restrictions imposed on our movement due to the Covid-19 pandemic can be demotivating, one of the takeaways from this experience is that real relationships transcend distance. Friendship continues to be

fostered through self-disclosure, which builds on the qualities of intimacy and creates high levels of trust.

DR NUR HAFEEZA AHMAD PAZIL ,Senior lecturer of Anthropology and Sociology Universiti Sains Malaysia

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