Coronavirus reveals the best and the worst in human connections
Why Don’t We Talk Anymore?
We’ve been asking members of the KC community to submit stories about life under house arrest. If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, please send it to email@example.com for consideration. Today, G.G. DeMarco talks about dating and disconnects. Our friend Ericka Cherry did a piece on Dating in the Time of Coronavirus, and this seems like an excellent/different companion to that.
As a high-energy extrovert, the anticipation of a quarantine and the social distancing that predated it filled me with dread. This feeling wasn’t helped by nearly constant calls from friends and clients worried about the impact of the virus on their lives and businesses. Ever equal parts counselor and advisor, I did my best to reassure everyone that things were going to work out. That we, as people, would find a way through this if we worked together. My calm demeanor hopefully hid the truth from them: that I was worried about where we all are headed; in terms of our health, our economy, and, most glaringly, our ability to connect with one another.
The impact of our social isolation has hit me hard. I’d already effectively been in self-imposed isolation of sorts due to traumatic changes in my personal life which carried me right into tax season; a period that inherently keeps me isolated from nearly everything but my computer. In many ways, the pressure of needing to focus on other people’s needs was a welcome distraction from the woes of my own life, but the emptiness of finding myself alone after eight blissful years of nearly constant companionship had become glaring in the sorrow reflected at me from across the globe.
As the coronavirus has wreaked havoc across the world in 2020, I’ve been able to enact some positive changes. I’ve lost nearly 35 pounds, shed some really destructive habits, and come to know myself better through serious introspection. I’ve found the strength to sleep in my own bed again, been a better son to my parents, become an even more considerate friend, and found the joy in my hobbies and interests again. While I’m not completely out of the woods in terms of some personal struggles, I’ve found that I have a life worth sharing again.
Finally giving in to the suggestions of friends and loved ones, I decided to put myself out there on the various online dating platforms that I’d resisted since their inception. I’d always felt that the approach was too impersonal. How could anyone really get to know someone or connect with someone at such a purposeful distance? Accepting that “this is simply the way it’s done now”, I tried to take comfort in the former self-confidence I’ve found again; the confidence that brought my former fiancée and I together in the first place.
I matched with numerous women within the first two hours. The notification bell on my phone rang clear through to my heart. What I didn’t realize is that the hard work was just beginning: the process of trying to share the warmth of your soul through the coldness of an app.
The tediousness of waiting for responses quickly started laying me lower than the joy of the connections I’d been making. It brought me back to the dark places of my former relationship, where I’d been much more open and honest in sharing than my love was, and which probably brought us to our end. “Why aren’t people engaging?”, I thought. “Isn’t that why we’re all here? To speed our way through the difficult early stages of things?” I had really hoped that my experience would be different. After conferring with more experienced users, I came to a horrible realization: that what I’ve come to perceive as our worst social tendency, our growing inability to talk and therefore make real meaningful connections, is only worsened by these tools supposedly designed to bring us together.
While social distancing and isolation is seemingly necessary to stem the advance of the virus, our retreat from each other that has been growing over the years has seemingly found a convenient cover, and I worry that this will potentially harm our collective spirits in a way that could have longer-lasting effects than any illness of the body could. Too many of us seem too scared to give of ourselves and ask others to meet our needs head-on.
I wholeheartedly believe that now is the time for us to really reach out to each other and connect in stronger and more meaningful ways than we ever have before. We should lay our fears and vulnerabilities on the table without worry and fear of rejection. By the same token, we shouldn’t be so quick to “swipe left” and reject ourselves. Deep down, we’re all seeking the opportunity to understand and be understood.
Working late yet another night, I found myself energized by the Rocky soundtrack pouring through my speakers. The thought of another underdog from the wrong side of tracks who found love by being unapologetically himself gave me the confidence to ask to get truly connected to a recent match that has really piqued my interest. After days of messaging, I’ve come to find that she’s intelligent and independent. Someone who’s achieved a great deal in the face of adversity and is comfortable putting herself out there. She’s got something of a regal quality to her, despite her humble origins. I proposed that we finally talk on the phone… that we finally make a real connection.
I poured myself back into my work, mostly as a distraction from waiting. I unfortunately became racked with various feelings of fear and trepidation. The gut-wrenching hurt from failing to be everything someone needed me to be. The guilt in moving on when you feel compelled to fix things at any cost. The worry that you’ll let down someone else when all you want is to bring them to new heights.
The truth is that I’m not completely over my former fiancée. When you’ve pledged to love someone forever, it’s hard to open yourself to new opportunities no matter the want to do so. I pray for her every day and worry about her incessantly in these difficult times. Our relationship was predicated on how well we talked to each other, which we did for hours every day about even about the most difficult subjects until she retreated from the honesty that we’d shared for so many years. I’d give anything for a relationship like that again, even with her. I began to think that no one would give me that opportunity again, to really share myself fully given how closed off we seem from each other.
Then the phone rang…