A new perspective on Corona Couch Potatoes
By Pia Tietjen
Probably, most of you recognize this meme. A couple of weeks ago it was all over social media. My first reaction was guilt. I wondered what me and my friends had been complaining about. Sitting on the couch, indeed, does not sound like such a horrible thing. Certainly not when comparing it to fighting in a war. Reflecting a bit longer on it, however, I felt like there were several things wrong with that statement.
First of all, why would I compare my current situation to a war 75 years ago, if there are wars happening right now? If one wants to compare the severity of ‘issues’, why not directly compare it to the war in Syria, which has been going on for years, while we live our lives in freedom and peace? Next to that, we are complaining all the time anyways. So much to study, so little time, so much rain, why does he not answer. It is not like privileged people just started complaining about minor issues during Corona times. So one could say ‘at least you are not called to war’ every time any one of us complains about anything. Besides that, reducing social isolation to ‘just chilling on the couch’ seems wrong to begin with.
I agree that overdramatization is not leading anywhere. I also agree that there are much bigger dangers than social isolation, which humans have faced and are still facing every day. But the awareness of the existence of other problems usually does not change the emotional reaction to challenges and changes in our personal life. And social isolation is a considerable change for most people. It is important to remember, though, that the experience of social isolation differs between individuals and their circumstances. Just like living standards and family backgrounds will never be all the same for everyone, quarantine is neither.
Obviously, vulnerable and old people have to be more careful than young and healthy students. But also the experience of the physically healthy population differs. Different people react differently to uncertainty and instability. People with anxiety, for example, suffer from immense worrying, fear and panic about the possible economic consequences of the pandemic . Whereas most of us worry to a certain extent and then realize that it does not lead anywhere, others cannot stop worrying about the possible consequences of the pandemic for a second. People suffering from hypochondria experience immense fear of becoming ill and actually start to experience physical symptoms because of it. Depressed people might experience relapses due to the change in routines and lack of social contact. As negative emotions and loneliness increases likelihood of drug misuse, many recovered addicts or alcoholics may fall back into old habits. Victims of domestic violence or other forms of abuse have difficulties to leave the house and are helplessly exposed to their family members. Finally, of course economic status changes the experience massively as well. Staying in a small room in a social housing building or in a big house with a garden for two months is simply not comparable.
So basically everything about this meme annoyed me. First, we should always be aware of our own privileges, regardless of the status quo. It seems spineless to only refer to ‘worse cases’, once a society faces a problem itself. Besides that, I don’t think it is appropriate to downplay ‘social isolation’ to just chilling on the couch, as it really depends on the circumstances of each individual. Now leaving the people out that do not even have the privilege to socially isolate themselves due to extreme poverty or war, several other issues like mental health, social status or the family situation play a big role on how ‘easy’ it is to sit on the couch the whole day. Many memes make me laugh and help me through these times, but others downplay the issue and therefore make fun of the people who actually face serious issues due to social isolation.