The coronavirus impact on solitude and the nature of connection

The thumbnail for the discussion

The coronavirus pandemic has in a short period of time raised new questions related to connection – both people’s connection with others as well as fundamentally with themselves. For some, self-isolation restrictions create a forced solitude that will remain for many months. Much of the early coverage on self-isolation measures focused on loneliness and the mental disruption this may cause for individuals living on their own – millennials as well as the elderly. Now may be the time to reach out and connect more than ever, rather than engage in self-introspection and risk reinforcing loneliness. Whereas for some this moment may help to regain control or ownership on projects both professional and personal, for others solitude may lead to paralysis. Hence the outcomes of solitude could be positive or negative, this shaped by the degree and approach to connection.

It has also quickly become clear that not all individuals – those with families in particular – can engage in solitude within the lockdown. The pandemic shines a light on the role and nature of the family in society, and may accentuate its strengths as well as weaknesses. Already, there are indications that the pandemic amplifies the positive but equally the negative in family dynamics. As is written in openDemocracy, “A quarantine is, in effect, an abuser’s dream – a situation that hands near-infinite power to those with the upper hand over a home.” In contrast, some families are discovering new depths of mutual support and delight in unexpected freedom from school and work commuting routines.

The pandemic, then, pulls us in opposing directions: it is a source of pause and reflection but also anxiety and alienation. This is true for individuals but equally for communities and systems. What then, is the solitude of the pandemic revealing to us about the nature of our relationships with ourselves, family and communities? Will this be a catalyst for solo living and aloneness and questioning of the nuclear family, or does this reinforce the importance of the family unit? For those in aloneness, is this a source of anxiety and loneliness to be looked upon negatively, or an opportunity to take ownership and control of projects?

How is this moment in time altering our understanding of connection – our ability to understand others and empathise with them? Is this an opportunity to bridge across differences or will the solitude of the pandemic lead to a turning inwards and reinforcement of relationships with people just like ourselves? How can communities and systems make the most of this moment of solitude, using this as a time for new ideas and connections rather than be overcome by uncertainty and the news of the hour? This session will provide philosophers, journalists, entrepreneurs, politicians, thinkers on the family and others with an opportunity to reflect on the nature of solitude for individuals, groups, communities and systems in the pandemic. We will identify the implications for generation of new ideas and connections for individuals, communities and systems as we work through and emerge from this moment.

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