Coronavirus: How a period of darkness lit up reality

Since the Coronavirus outbreak in Britain, society has been put under a microscope as people look to one another and to our most powerful institutions for the answers to our uncertain future. This is a time that should bring us together – and has to a certain extent, but the cracks are beginning to show.

  • There is a strong social solidarity in Britain. In these testing times, Brit’s are standing together to fulfil our duty to keep one another safe and protect our NHS. Our solidarity is rooted in appreciation for our NHS workers, care for the elderly/ most vulnerable, and our communal sense of humour. Our shared sense of admiration and gratitude for our brave NHS workers saw thousands of families #clapforcarers, applauding the efforts of doctors and nurses on the streets last Thursday at eight pm. On another note, social media has acted as a bridge between social distancing and remaining connected, sharing our experiences of isolation and keeping morale up. Even a pandemic cannot get in the way of our collective sense of humour, as an abundance of pandemic themed videos and memes flood our screens and continue to lift our spirits every day as millions of Brits take to social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok to share how they are passing time in quarantine.
  • The way that Britons have reacted to the Coronavirus pandemic highlights concerns about the level of satisfaction, enjoyment and fulfilment adults in the UK receive during their average working week. The struggle to force the population to stay at home highlights that people are desperate to enjoy the sunshine to make up for time lost in their stress ridden and mundane nine to five jobs, irrespective of the threat to life. The excitement of at least three weeks off work and four days of sunshine was enough for exasperated Britons to ignore government advice to stay inside and stay safe. With schools closed, exams cancelled and only those seen as ‘essential workers’ going to work, Brits made the most of the good weather and time off on Mothering Sunday weekend. Police had to warn sunbathers in parks across London to return to their homes, insisting that “it’s not a holiday, it’s a lockdown”[1]. More than just workplace dissatisfaction, the mental health of our working population is sacrificed in our employment. A concerning 602,000[2] workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing) in 2018/19. This amounted to 12.8 million working days lost. Those working in Public admin/defence, education, and human health and social work suffered higher than average rates of stress, depression or anxiety. It is no coincidence that workers in these industries, (such as teachers and nurses) who endure an excessive workload and working hours – often exacerbated by government ‘initiatives’,  have the highest levels of poor mental health.
  • We are an intrinsically unequal nation. The claim that ‘we are all in this together’ when it comes to coronavirus, is a rose tinted assessment of reality and fundamentally untrue. Although we are experiencing a time that should bring us all together, the inequalities that divide our society are accentuated. The coronavirus savagely discriminates against those with underlying health issues, lonely elderly people, those vulnerable in abusive homes, NHS workers, independent business owners, and students missing out on crucial milestones of their educational career. The phrase, ‘we are all in this together’, most commonly used by celebrities who endure self-distancing in mansions with cinema rooms and indoor gyms, try to uplift their social media followers with messages suggesting that everyone is having the same experience of self-isolation.  I do not deny the fact that the rich and famous experience their own personal problems or aim to discredit their genuine attempts to put a smile on peoples faces, but to believe that coronavirus is the great equaliser, is a skewed perception. While Cristiano Ronaldo soaks up the sun in his luxury villa overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, we must think of the multiple families cramped up with small children all living in a single room of a shared house (as I know there are in my home town of Leicester). Even in the testing of coronavirus there is a hierarchy. Our national heroes, doctors and nurses fighting on the frontline of the pandemic are struggling to get tested and if successful can wait up to a week to get test results, while Prince Charles and Boris Johnson receive immediate attention. Why is their health more important?
  • Social media is the devil in disguise. Most of us will have noticed a slight increase in our ‘screen time’ during quarantine. Time spent on our phones (which averages at just under two hours per day among Brits[3]) offers a mindless and passive way to spend the days, distracting us from engaging in activities that offer meaning and a sense of achievement. The distraction of social media enables us to take the easy route out of doing the things we have been meaning to get round to do but were previously ‘too busy’. It may seem insensitive to find silver linings during a global crisis, however our time in isolation may be the best excuse we’ve ever had to be selfish, to pick up the book we have always wanted to read, to learn a new skill, or even to wind down and binge a box set (would recommend Killing Eve). Time spent in quarantine should be about personal reflection, rather than comparing ourselves with people online. If we look up from our screens, we will see a chance to connect with ourselves and our families, an opportunity we cannot allow social media to corrupt. Nevertheless, quarantine would be a lonely place without social media, which blesses us with the ability to connect with friends and family globally and share information related to our safety.  To clarify my point, do not allow phones and social media to hinder this opportunity for personal growth and reflection but capitalise on its function to connect us, remembering to check in on friends or relatives living alone.

Other articles of interest:

The Guardian – ‘Anger over Prince Charles’s Covid-19 test is a warning sign of divisions to come’ – Gaby Hinsliff https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/26/coronavirus-prince-charles-covid-19-test-old-divisions

10 Ways Social Media is Ruining Your Life – http://theblogabroad.com/2019/01/19/10-ways-social-media-is-ruining-your-life/


[1] The Guardian – ‘It’s not a holiday’: police disperse sunbathers in London during coronavirus lockdown – video. https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2020/mar/24/its-not-a-holiday-police-clear-sunbathers-from-london-park-during-coronavirus-lockdown-video

[2] Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, 2019 – https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf

[3]  ‘Social media statistics in the UK’ – https://www.talkwalker.com/blog/social-media-statistics-in-the-uk

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