27 March 2020

Notes from a pandemic: Misanthrope report

Occasionally, when someone I know asks how everyone is doing (particularly on social media like Facebook or Twitter) how they’re doing working from home / self quarantined / social distancing, my response is usually something like:

“Misanthrope reporting in. What is everyone bitching about? Social distancing is the best thing ever. I’ve never been happier in my life!”

This statement is about:

  • 50% true.
  • 40% joking for the sake of joking (also known as me being a smartass).
  • 10% false bravado.

I am pseudo-extrovert. I can dial up the energy level and sometimes even charm for a presentation, conference, or teaching, but it takes it out of me. I recharge by getting away from people. This is one more reason why, as I said before, my life has been disrupted much, much less than many other people.

Part of me is digging the fact that nobody expects me to go to meetings in person. That traffic is now relatively light all the time. I don’t have to generate as much small talk.

That false bravado, though, is real. As in, really false.

Not long ago, I stumbled across the TV series Alone, and watched season 2 - partly because it was set on the north end of Vancouver Island, Canada, which is close to where I used to live. (Victoria is on the south end of the island.)

Participants film themselves. They have no film crew. They have nothing but a “panic button” to connect with the outside world.

The show is kind of an ode to boredom, punctuated by rare moments of crisis.

Watching the show, what became obvious was that for some participants who made themselves reasonably secure physically did not mean they were okay psychologically.

One participant said something like, “If you have an unresolved issues, they are going to bubble up and consume you, because there is nothing else to distract you and beat them back down.”

I’ve felt a very tiny little bit of that in the last couple of weeks.

Now, to reiterate my point earlier: I’m all right! But even we introverted, slightly misanthropic human beings are usually social animals, and we need something to keep ourselves occupied besides our own thoughts.

I am super glad for the internet and my pocket friends. I’ve said for years, “Online conversations are real conversations.” Online friendships are real friendships. This will be something that will save a lot of people from falling into bad places in their own minds.

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