COVID-19 vs Culture Series: An Extrovert Finds the Silver Lining
We all each respectively have our own ways and preferences of communicating and we all generally fall under two categories: introverts and extroverts. An introvert is described by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “ a reserved or shy person who enjoys spending time alone”, while an extrovert is “a gregarious and unreserved person”. While there are nuances and possible overlaps of traits, it is clear that an introverted person would be better-suited to dealing with the lack of physical human contact in our current social situation. Conversely, extroverts would be more affected by the “new normal” of social distancing and staying at home as much as possible. Aside from those who are extroverted, other affected people would surely be the youth whose social settings are primarily school and their fellow students.
As such, we asked student Vicenzi Eclarin, an 18-year old student and self-proclaimed extrovert as to how she’s adjusted to this current social situation.
“Honestly, I’m such an extrovert. I like going out, even just going out for dinner or brunch. That completely changed! I don’t like staying at home for a long period of time. It’s challenging to always be with the same people (like family, for example) when you’re stuck at home with them. I used to leave in the morning and go home at night, so being here in my room alone just being confronted with my emotions and all that is so difficult. I’m so talkative in class, which is something you can’t really do when you’re doing online classes. So, the interaction is very, very low – like from student to teacher and student to student.”
New Routines for the New Normal
Now in a gap year, Vicenzi and other teenagers are at a loss with what to do. Before, there was the freedom to go out and see friends, even to look for part-time jobs or even travel. But with the current situation of being confined to our homes, it’s easy to get complacent and discouraged to not want to do anything. So for her, being at home limits the amount of things that make her feel accomplished.
“Doing sports outside helps me focus. I think now it just deteriorated when I got stuck in my room every day. I used to note the things I did at the end of the day. This has been a source of contentment for me but now I cannot feel content at the end of the day. I like sleeping at night knowing I achieved things. I used to think, “I went to school, I did this after this, and I met up with people.” You’d sleep with that sense of accomplishment and be excited with what you would do tomorrow. Now, I keep sleeping and waking up not knowing what my purpose was anymore, so I was questioning my existence at one point even though there’s really no reason to. You’re just on your bed, on your phone, doing nothing. I was at such a low point. It sounds so dramatic, but I felt so overwhelmed.”
As Vicenzi previously mentioned, the seemingly hopeless situation can take a toll on your wellbeing. To combat that thought process, she found herself enrolling in online courses and sticking to a new daily routine to help her feel accomplished and productive again:
“I think it’s important to find simple things that will keep you busy. Staying at home can be overwhelming for me. In the morning I do meditation, then work out sometimes, and then I cook breakfast. And then for the rest of the morning, I try to learn a new language. I tried learning French before but I failed, so I’m learning Dutch right now. I have Dutch friends online and I’ve had Dutch friends abroad. I would video call with them and practice speaking with them. I also just found out that there’s so many free online courses that you can apply to. I took like two-week online course about computer science. I just felt useful over those 2 weeks, and I learned a few things that I feel like could be useful.”
Adjusting to Social Media and Social Distancing
While social media has been ingrained in our everyday lives for decades now, it’s become a necessity now rather than a convenience or something to pass the time with. Thus, naturally, now that the social setting has shifted to being primarily through virtual and online platforms, non-verbal cues can be easily missed. For extroverts, it’s especially easier to express their emotions when they’re in the same space with their friends. Vicenzi said:
“It was much easier to tell someone when something was wrong, but now it’s very hard to communicate online. [Being online] is kind of a barrier that you have between you and your friends. Communicating emotions is also very hard. Affection or love can only go so far online because you can’t really see them in real life. I’m also very affectionate to my friends, like I like hugging them. I feel like if someone hugged me right now, I would cry because I love being around people and I just love being around their energy. I think being around people really helps my mental health and doing things outside that I love, like shopping or eating.”
Instant messaging through social media has stripped human correspondence of mystery and thrill. When sending messages these days, there is no need to plan and imagine the reaction of the receiver. Vicenzi has discovered a way to bring back the thrill of receiving messages from friends.
“Aside from talking to my friends through FB Messenger, recently I saw this app called Slowly, which like a pen-pal app where you send a letter to someone and depending on how far they are, for example America, Hong Kong. It will vary how long it takes for your letter to be sent. Since technology is now advanced, the way we communicate, through instant messaging, is very fast. This is what makes Slowly exciting because you’re waiting their message. It’s super interesting and entertaining because you cannot put everything in a letter. You have to plan! There are actual writers that take it seriously, and I think that’s the challenge of it also because we’re so used to texting but with Slowly you have to really make a draft and make sure it’s nice and understandable, then you have to wait for their reply. That’s what makes it super cool.”
Humans are social creatures but social gatherings or just plainly hanging-out has its challenges now. The concerns people have to consider today are so unheard of before that just thinking about them makes you wonder when all this is going to end. Vicenzi shares how she is observing all necessary safety measures:
“I’m finding alternatives for keeping in touch with friends so I feel like I’m keeping my contact very minimal. For example, I asked some of my neighbors to come here. It’s very safe, and my dad started a sanitation business for COVID, so our protocols are fine. I have no problem, so I ask them to come over and hang out. Obviously with social distancing and mask, and I think that’s what makes it really fun. I don’t want to be the type of person that likes to go out to party because I don’t think that’s right. I’m just trying to be a good citizen, and even though I’m an extrovert, I’m just going to do my part and contain myself. I think one should find alternative ways to contact other people because you can’t really physically be with them. I can imagine that there’s excitement with going out now , but I don’t think you should risk your health or other people’s health. If there’s a way for you to hang out or spend time with each other safely, I think you should settle with that.”
The First COVID Season Christmas
One way or the other, we’ve all had plans that have been put on-hold for now due to the pandemic. Especially with the holidays coming up, we all will have to make major adjustments as to how we plan to celebrate, given that here in the Philippines, the culture is to have multiple large celebrations with friends and family. But as the saying goes, as one door closes, another opens.
“When I went to Italy last year to spend Christmas with my family there, it was a huge gathering with so many people. I’m used to that kind of energy where I’m around a lot of people, unlike being here with only with my parents and my brother. I feel like that would be so weird, but at the same time I feel like it would be a good experience just to have like a little gathering with your family because I have never experienced that. My friend was also supposed to get married this December. She’s from Denmark and I was supposed to fly over there for her wedding but obviously that can’t happen now because of the travel ban. So I was asking her what her plans are and I don’t know if she wants to do it through Zoom or just move it. But if I were to have a celebration, I’d rather wait until we can have a real gathering, whenever that would be, rather than have it online because it just doesn’t feel the same.”
How COVID Made Our Dreams Evolve
As we learn and grow more throughout our life’s journey, the experiences change our outlooks as individuals—even our personalities and interests. Since we now have more time to really examine our lives and take a step back, it’s inevitable to question where you are in life and whether you’re happy with where you’re at. We also have more time to explore different options and hobbies we never thought possible to pique our interest, or things we’ve been wanting to try but always had to put off. Vicenzi shares her experience:
“You know, I was so sure that I wanted to do theater. I wanted to be a performer, but the quarantine made me realize that in times like these where people can’t have gatherings and can’t hang out and enjoy, I can’t perform. Unless I was a film actress, that might work because if you’re shooting movies, everyone should be tested and safe. I think that even at the beginning of the year, I was already questioning it because I was thinking that I don’t know if this is what I really want to do. My parents were so unsupportive when I would told them that I would do acting, because at beginning of January, I’ve actually gone to a Julliard audition, and my parents were like, “Hmm, yeah it’s fine if that’s what you want.”
The Value of Online Courses to One’s Growth
The situation makes use evaluate some more what else can we do. Vicenzi is not alone in this and this self-evaluation does not only apply to young people. Everyone was forced by COVID to confront their fears and options. Everyone needs to adjust and re-tool. Perhaps we can say that the pandemic has made it convenient for us to work on ourselves through online courses because educating ourselves online has become the new norm. It is faster, cheaper, and a lot more convenient. You do not have to brave the Metro Manila traffic just to be in school or to make it to the training center.
“With my personality, everyone tells me that I’d be suited to politics, so I’ve been thinking about that, and my course now is PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics). When I told my parents that I wanted to shift to politics, economics, and international relations, they were like, “Yeah that’s perfect for you, you should do that.” They were really supportive. And that’s also another thing; that’s what I’ve always wanted – I want to make an impact. With that I think the Making an Impact course of EtonX is perfect for me. I don’t need to travel to London to get this. So right now, I’m working on improving myself. I’m doing online courses, I’m learning new languages, and I’m also trying to learn as many skills and soft skills per course as I can.”
In Spite of the Pandemic, Be Your Best Self
The pandemic has made people feel more lonely than usual. Although we manage to keep in touch online, the excitement of making time to meet people and feeling their energies unfold in your presence are clouded in mediated communication. This is one of the reasons why a lot of people feel depressed now. Vicenzi intimates how she processes being alone:
“I feel like we all are lonely, so we’re not alone with that. As an extrovert, I need my alone time too. Take your loneliness or alone time to work on yourself. Ultimately, you will feel less lonely because you will feel better knowing you are working on yourself. That idea can make you feel more relaxed and less stressed.”