OPINION | COVID-19 restrictions build new appreciation for friendships

Phoebe Hurwitz, Staff Writer

A girl on the phone, presumably with a friend outside of her "bubble."
Friendships outside of one’s bubble are just a phone call away. Gabe Darley | Senior Staff Artist

In nostalgic moments of contemplation, it is now second nature to agonize over pre-COVID-19 life. While celebrating the circumstances caused by COVID-19 is quixotic and even insensitive, we would be remiss to ignore the positive byproducts of the pandemic and its appendages. 

COVID-19 restrictions and precautions often generate resentment for having destructive effects on relationships. Though health and safety precautions certainly redefined interconnectedness, relationships during COVID-19 are, nonetheless, prosperous. Adaptations to COVID-19 restrictions affords us an opportunity to more sincerely understand and cultivate these connections. 

COVID-19 safety regulations delineated the “close-friend bubble” as the group of people with whom we live or spend considerable time. The current pandemic privileged this “bubble” with an acutely important status that it did not hold prior to the virus. 

Now, the close-friend bubble provides solace for its members not only because it is defined by intimacy and comfort, but also because it is seen as a safe place. Albeit intangible, the close-friend bubble is a place of normalcy where we can remove our masks; it is a place of safety, where we are better protected from illness; it is a place of immunity from the regulation of COVID-19. In all, the close-friend bubble is a sanctuary in a COVID-19 world. 

Rather than begrudging pre-COVID-19 freedoms, we should instead appreciate the intimate relationships restrictions have fostered. The intimacy and comfortability provided by the post-pandemic bubble is a positive effect of pandemic restrictions. If ever there is a setting in which security and bliss are necessary, it is with the people with whom we share a living space. COVID-19 restrictions facilitated the cultivation of valuable relationships. Restrictions have encouraged, and in fact demanded, the notion of quality over quantity in relationships. Quality relationships with family members and living partners should be privileged over quantity. Indeed, high-quality, intimate relationships defined by trust, intimacy and enjoyment are ultimately more beneficial for our mental and physical health and well-being.

Cultivating positive effects in the face of adversity is admirable and worthwhile, but relationship maintenance in a COVID-19-friendly capacity is neither inconceivable nor futile. When it comes to socially distanced or virtual quality time, a defeatist mindset seems to be adopted. Many reject one-on-one Zoom hangouts or small, masked gatherings for being inauthentic, awkward, or less enjoyable. In fact, Zoom events have almost become a taboo, half-baked and unsatisfying attempt to recreate a flavor of intimacy that is inaccessible to the virtual realm. 

Perhaps a new recipe with regard to relationships and events would be more suitable than a re-creation. In other words, maintaining relationships outside of our immediate bubble may look different than it once did, but it need not be a comparison. Presently, we don’t have access to the way things were before, and we must establish normalcy in its own right. Nostalgia is lethal in large doses.

Alas, the ability to embrace a new normal, while indeed possible and necessary, is difficult. Fortunately, the arduous process of change is eased as restrictions are gradually loosened. Severe COVID-19 restrictions and the limited way of pandemic life are transitory. Tulane University, in accordance with the city of New Orleans, began lifting restrictions in a health- and safety-conscious manner, cognizant of possible future COVID-19 spikes. Growing impatience regarding restrictions appears to lessen as the transition to normalcy, though likely redefined, commences. 

Nevertheless, life with COVID-19 restrictions and life without them should not stand as polarizing opposites. Rather, lessons should be learned from our experiences in lockdown. The practical and ideological manifestations of life during a pandemic can be carried with us as we create a new normal. 

Instead of leaving our experiences in the dust behind us as we celebrate the reopening of society, we should continue to remember and appreciate them. Upon finally spending time with that friend you have not seen in person since before lockdown, let your in-person quality time be enhanced by the fact that they were consistently on the receiving end of your quarantine phone calls.