By Dr Nur Hafeeza Ahmad Pazil
After almost an entire year of living in a COVID-19 reality, it’s not surprising that many of us feel displaced as a result of the pandemic.
Whether you’re a student, working adult or a retiree, a lot of us are living through a bizarre period in time where we are forced to sacrifice real face time with our friends and family.
This is especially true as a Malaysian, where many of us have been adapting through the different waves of lockdown restrictions and new SOPs which limit our freedom to be with our family or work and school friends.
It’s during these difficult times when we are forced to distance and isolate ourselves from friends and loved ones that we are able to reflect upon our mental and emotional state. It’s only natural for us to want to connect with our friends at this time, especially when they play huge roles in our lives.
But it’s encouraging to see that a lot of us have not skipped a beat when it comes to moving our conversations to mediums like messaging apps and online platforms to stay in touch.
Keeping in touch
When I was working alongside Snapchat in their recently-released Friendship Report, we found that 85% of Malaysian friends have been keeping in touch and maintaining their relationship through digital communications while 81% said they were using online channels more than they would have before COVID-19.
This resonates with how we find comfort in the familiarity and closeness in the friendships we cultivate in our lives. Living in a pandemic has shown how resilient we truly are. Whether we are catching up over video calls, playing games, or sending each other a Snap, digital communication has been a core staple in the way we communicate when we are apart.
Snap’s Friendship Report also found that 52% of us preferred reaching out with photos that reminded us of a shared memory or one that reminded us of our friends.
It’s as the saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, and that’s evident with how we desire more time with one another and want to find outlets to connect on. In fact, you’d be surprised to learn that people are becoming closer and more intimate even when physically distanced.
Friends have been bonding on a closer level during the pandemic, and it was found that 59% of friends said that their conversations through online channels have actually been deeper rather than focused on surface-level topics.
So what can we do to connect or reconnect with our friends? Fortunately, being in the digital age provides us with virtual spaces that we can hang out in. Whether it’s attending virtual classes together, playing video games, or letting loose at a virtual concert, it’s important that we find an outlet to interact with the people we care about and keep the relationship healthy, even if we can’t do it face-to-face.
It hasn’t been easy weathering through the rising and falling numbers of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia through last year.
Although it can be demotivating going in and out of the movement control order, one of the takeaways we can take from this experience is that real relationships transcend distance. More importantly, friendship can continue to be fostered through self-disclosure, which builds on the qualities of intimacy and creates high levels of trust.
After all, friends are an important part of our support system, especially when we feel more isolated than ever today.
Dr Nur Hafeeza Ahmad Pazil is Senior Lecturer of Anthropology and Sociology at Universiti Sains Malaysia.
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