On Positivity & Empathy

If you asked ten people right now what they feel is an appropriate way to meet the current moment, you may very well get ten different responses. If the impassioned anti-lockdown protests taking place around the country and the equally impassioned responses to said protests are any indication, people’s opinions on what the right approach is in regards to balancing public health and the economy range all the way from “we should open everything back up and take our chances” to “social distancing is our new normal and we should never shake hands again.” 

Are either of these two ends of the spectrum the perfect approach? Probably not. In my opinion, the right approach probably falls somewhere in the middle. But at the end of the day that’s not up to me to decide, and no one’s really sure what the perfect approach actually is.

What I wanted to focus on here, however, isn’t necessarily the idea of quarantine from a physical or government mandated standpoint, but as a state of mind.

In my last post I talked about finding hope in the midst of difficult times, and when I was reading through blog posts from my peers, I realized a lot of them are trying to do the same. Getting to read about Maranda using the lockdown as an opportunity to learn a new language and Ava pointing out little positive things like seeing more kids outdoors and physically active really made me smile. In my opinion, it’s awesome to see people putting a positive spin on something that’s objectively so negative. 

The same way that there are people who disagree on whether or not we should be continuing to socially isolate, however, there are people who disagree with the mindset of finding a silver lining during quarantine.  

When we first began to socially distance, social media was flooded with posts of people finding goofy or artistic ways to pass the time. Some of my personal favorites were this talented kid singing a song of kindness to the world and this person playing tic tac toe with their turtle. These posts were met with positive responses from what I saw, which made it all the more baffling to me when I started seeing some recent pushback against trying to make the best of life under quarantine. 

A few days ago, I stumbled upon an original cartoon by Bruno Saggese captioned with the title “The Romanticization of the Quarantine is a Class Privilege.” 

The cartoon depicts things like people playing music and taking pictures out on their balconies, a clear allusion to some of the pictures and videos that have been going viral amidst the quarantine (like these from Italy) and shows the contrast to those who are struggling at home and even working out on the front lines.

Now that’s not to say that the artist is wrong. Having the ability to use the quarantine to practice new skills or catch up on your favorite shows is definitely a privilege that not all people have, and many in the Reddit thread responded by pointing out that they are well aware that they are fortunate to only have to worry about their own boredom. The implication that putting a positive spin on quarantine is inherently insensitive is still floating around some other social media circles, however. I don’t necessarily believe that’s true, but let’s take a look at the other end of the spectrum.

As recently as last night, Bill Maher took the other side of the “stop romanticizing quarantine” argument by claiming that the pandemic isn’t as dire as the media is making it out to be, and that “most of us are sitting at home smoking delivery weed and binge-watching a show about a zookeeper.” That isn’t true either. Many are still working, and many who aren’t are still worrying about how to put food on the table without a steady income.

Much like on the spectrum of social distancing, my personal opinion is that the right answer to this clash in opinion falls somewhere between the two extremes. In my last post, I was advocating for trying to seek out positive news during quarantine, however, I am still conscious of the fact that this situation is anything but “good” or “fun.” For as important as I feel that trying to stay positive is for the sake of our mental health, I feel as though it’s just as important to stay somewhat grounded in reality. Quarantine isn’t a vacation, and I sincerely believe that the majority of us understand that, and are simply trying to make the best of a bad situation. 

At the end of the day though, I think it’s important to do what’s best for you in your current situation. If you’re able to use quarantine to learn to play a new instrument, or to read that book that’s been sitting untouched on your shelf for a year, that’s fantastic! I’ve personally been playing an obscene amount of Nintendo Switch myself, but I commend you for being more productive than I am. Some of our friends and neighbors, however,  aren’t as fortunate, and it’s important to keep that in mind too.

At the end of the day, remember to treat people with kindness. Each of us has different struggles, and we never know what someone else is going through…especially now.

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