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Lila Wattis explores her struggle seeing some of her friends flout lockdown rules
As we enter our third month under lockdown restrictions, although many of us are still obeying government regulations, there are a significant number who aren’t.
As a teenager, my social media is filled with updates of large groups gathering closely, to drink, party, and act as if a global pandemic isn’t happening. Daily I’m asked whether I want to attend a friend’s birthday gathering, or a secret park party.
I reject these offers, knowing that I have a duty of care to the NHS, and to the vulnerable groups that surround me. Despite my moral compass, I can’t say that I’m not sorely tempted.
Social media updates show my closest friends having a good time, catching up, laughing and drinking, while I sit at home seeking solace in another Netflix episode – not easy. One thing I have learned from this pandemic is that the fear of missing out often conquers rationality.
“Physical distancing goes against adolescent impulse,” says clinical psychologist, Dr Loades. They do this “to assert themselves as individuals, away from their parents; to spend time with their friends, to take risks, to act without thinking of consequences.”
I know that I’m doing the right thing, yet I don’t feel at all good about it. I’ve become isolated from my friends who now meet regularly.
In some ways, I’m frustrated with those around me who have selfishly decided to put others in harm’s way. I watch as friends who want to be doctors, who have used the NHS in times of crisis, now contribute to its strain and struggle.
I know that I’m doing the right thing, yet I don’t feel at all good about it. I’ve become isolated from my friends who now meet regularly. I’m anxious that, once rules are relaxed and we can meet freely, I’ll have been absent from gossip, relationships and general teenage excitement. Will they still want to see me? Will I have missed out on too much?
Meanwhile, it has been over three months since I last saw my girlfriend. We were meant to celebrate our six month anniversary on the weekend lockdown was announced. We now draw close to ten months together, and conversations about our latest Netflix binge are monotonous, as well as few and far between.
I am doing what is expected of me and what is morally right. These are things I know to be true. I shouldn’t have to be praised for following the law.
A recent report finds 43% of young people say their anxiety levels have increased due to the pandemic
Lockdown isn’t proving easy for anyone. However, the influence of social media is now evidently clear. With politicians, celebrities and friends boasting their rebellion against these restrictions on Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram, they are normalising breaking the rules. It’s making life more difficult for those of us who are still following them.
A report by the Prince’s Trust and YouGov, shows that 43% of young people say their anxiety levels have increased due to the pandemic, and 32% say they are overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety and panic on a daily basis.
We must show our social media generation compassion during this time. It’s lonely, and disheartening feeling like you’re the only one still following the rules. It doesn’t help, if we judge the young people now giving in to the temptation, as it has been normalised by others, with some in powerful positions.
I have found ways of reminding myself these restrictions won’t be forever and keeping busy with purpose helps. I’ve been working with children, via Zoom, to support them with their reading and writing and it feels great to help.
Our thanks to Thrive LDN’s Right To Thrive grant scheme for making this project possible.