COVID has ravaged every facet of society. It’s scary because with each day it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine life after COVID. Every conceivable aspect of my life has been altered since quarantine, so much so that my idea of a ‘normal’ life no longer resembles how I lived six months prior to now. Although my life has changed drastically, I never let myself forget that my experience is most definitely not the experience of this time. I have an incredibly stable living condition, I’m safe, I’m employed and most importantly, I’m healthy. Every inconvenience or life-altering event (taking a gap semester because sophomores aren’t invited back to campus) is incredibly relative, and at the end of the day I’m incredibly privileged and lucky. That’s why watching people in similar comfort behave so carelessly and selfishly makes me sick.

The aspect of my life that COVID had the most dramatic impact on is my social life, for the obvious reasons: parties, going out, the on-campus college experience… all gone. However, the most glaringly obvious effect the pandemic has had on my social life is how it’s absolutely obliterated my roster of friends.

Behavior during this time has become a moral litmus test of sorts. If someone continues going out and behaves as though all is well, I view that as a serious character flaw. Abstaining from reckless social behavior is the least we can do during this time, but many have prioritized their fun over public health. To me, this is not only a sign of irresponsibility, but pure, unadulterated narcissism. The worst of the bunch are those who incessantly post infographics about the dangers of COVID, irresponsible behavior and how the virus is disproportionately impacting minorities. But when it comes to their private instagram stories, those same principles they were promoting are suddenly forgotten. The second they feel as though it’s safe to reveal their true nature, they don’t hesitate. They want to showcase their fun-filled lives, free from the shame and the guilt. Is there any stench more foul than hypocrisy?

To me, coronavirus has presented a new moral dilemma in the world of social standards. There are so many people that I was previously friends with, or at the very least, people that I was fond of, who have revealed themselves as self-centered assholes. In many cases, the only flaw some people have is how they handle themselves during the pandemic. However, it’s a glaring flaw that sheds sufficient light on who they are as a person — what values they have. This is the most significant global event of our lifetimes, so the people who can’t see past themselves in this crucial moment are not people with whom I want to associate myself.

A positive side to this phenomenon has been that it has provided a sort of ‘social natural selection’. At a certain age, we all start to realize that the phrase “quality over quantity” is most applicable to friendships. The older we get, the more we begin to grow apart from people who had previously played a large role in our lives. Coronavirus sped that process along, and I’m honestly grateful that I don’t have to waste the next few years in bad company. The pandemic has also fortified the friendships I had with people who did behave responsibly. It’s reassuring that I have people in my life who are able to see the bigger picture — and more importantly, act in accordance with it. The misery of this time is certainly more bearable when you know we’re actually in it together. 

My newly diminished social circle grows painfully more evident the more time I spend more time at home. In Delaware, the number of people that I still consider my friends has decreased drastically. Maybe this wouldn’t be an issue in normal times. As I’ve said, the number of home friends you have is supposed to dwindle as you get older — but the main issue is that there’s no real way of replenishing the supply. I have no real way of making new friends to replace the once I’ve lost; I can’t go out to meet new people, and most of the people I do know who still live in Delaware are in high school.

I assume that it will be easier to shift relationships around once back on campus. There are so many more people, yet by the time I get there the first years will remain a figment of my imagination. I doubt I’ll be able to shake my lingering concerns. There’s a risk I could unknowingly befriend someone who didn’t give a fuck about the pandemic. If I’m completely honest, this thinking may hinder me in future attempts to make new friends. I’ll desperately want to know how people behaved during this time, but I’ll also be fearful of their answer.

Ah, the complications COVID has rendered upon my social psyche. I’m sure that I could do my best in ignoring those who were acting irresponsibly in this period of time. After all, it will be a past version of themselves anyway, not the version that I encounter in the hypothetical years to come. Yet, I stand by my belief that this moment in time is shedding light on who people really are. It’s too easy for people to tell you who they are during the good times. We can only ever really know who someone is when they show us in the bad times. 

Simi Olurin | simi.olurin@yale.edu