With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it’s fair to say that we are living through an odd time. An unimaginable situation of sorts. There is no precedent to act upon. Whatever is being done and needs to be done is being overhauled day to day, moment to moment owing to the researches uncovering additional information.
And the onus is on the front-liners: the health care workers, the essential workers, administrators, police personnel and all those who are braving this pandemic for us. They deserve all the applaud there is to be given.
Now, what about us? The so-called ‘active participants’ doing our all-important bit from home. Every expert has said over and over again, the best way to contribute is by being at home. As a medical student, albeit being the junior-most, still feel we are part of the medical fraternity fighting the pandemic out there. So, is it normal to feel useless and worthless sitting at home sometimes?
There is a term in psychology called conformity. It simply means the pressure or urges to fit in society or with your peers. And with the advent of social media, this peer pressure has gone digital and global. Now, there is a need for conformity with the whole wide internet world. This is what these social media challenges exploit. And this is what makes peoples’ life miserable.
It is indeed normal to try and be productive because everyone on the internet is claiming to do so.You just feel an irresistible pull to be a part of the community doing such great things out there. The ever-popular ‘Bandwagon effect’ comes into play here.
As more people come to believe in something, others also “hop on the bandwagon” following the trend regardless of the usefulness or necessity of the idea.Someone is learning to play the guitar, someone is reading tons of book, someone has learned to cook new recipes. And you feel the pressure to fit in.
And then you cave in and you follow the trend. You feel great for a few days being a part of the larger circle, the internet family. But, in a few days, the flame dies. The urge vanishes, replaced by the guilt of not being able to do as social media demands.
The workout sessions of celebrities, the home baking session, the endless DIY that floods your social media feeds will just make you feel bad about not doing anything. And then you are deep in the rabbit-hole of guilt which too is normal.
As per the ‘Inverted U theory’ given by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson, peak performance is achieved when the level of pressure we experience is appropriate for the work we’re doing. When we’re under too much or too less pressure, performance declines, sometimes severely.
The lockdown we are in is a stressful situation. The intention of this lockdown is not to make a guitarist or Master Chef out of you. It is just a safety net to break the chain of transmission. If you manage to do so, congratulations you are a Master Chef. If you didn’t manage to learn it, congratulations, you’re are safe from Covid-19. It’s a win-win for everybody.
After the SARS outbreak in 2003, those (health workers and non-health workers alike) who were under self-quarantine later developed symptoms of PTSD. So, we can’t think of this situation as a long day of leisure.
This pandemic has the same effect as that of a traumatic event. As long as it is fun, no harms come from this trend of being productive or busy. The problems arise when it starts to feel like an obligation to fulfill resulting from the digital peer pressure.
So, I feel it is perfectly normal not to want to do anything productive in this tumultuous time and there is a way to stop feeling bad about it. The magic trick is called Digital Detox.
Stay away from all your social media for a certain time. Away from the influences, away from the pressure, away from the trends. If it’s difficult, start with a small duration. Then slowly increase as per your convenience and see the positive wonder it brings in your life.