ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Social Relationships during Isolation

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Gopal Guru, in his editorial “COVID-19 and the Question of Taming Social Anxiety” (EPW, 4 April 2020), rightly points out the increasing level of anxiety among people by classifying it into rational and irrational anxiety. This anxiety is not only about isolation but also about the whole scenario with respect to the lockdown, wherein an uncertain future awaits everyone. It is a big challenge to maintain mental peace at a time when one is forced to remain confi ned within one’s home with limited resources and, in some cases, even without food. The socioeconomic consequences of this will be far-reaching on our society, but there are even harsher social consequences that are going to change our social relationship in a larger way.

Covid-19 has forced many poor people to adopt things which are known and practically possible only among the middle and the upper classes. The anxiety the rural poor are suffering is about following social distancing with minimum resources to sustain their life. Many parts of rural India are still ignorant about common hygiene practices, let alone sanitising their hands.

The term social distancing would never have been used with such a fervour and popularity as it is being used these days. Is this physical distance going to convert into social and emotional distance? The question is bigger than what we are speculating. During this lockdown, most of us are interacting and expressing ourselves on social media. Our busy and hectic lifestyles have already made us accustomed to the virtual world, but, in the present situation, we are trying to remain connected through this virtual world only. The much-maligned realm of social media has suddenly become the biggest support to avoid isolation-related anxiety.

Having distance during interactions will become the norm and may get social sanction in the long term. The fear of getting infected has increased people’s insecurity so much that in many cases, people are behaving inhumanly. There were media reports on how many villagers reported those workers who had returned to their villages on foot to the police. Not only this, many were assaulted while trying to enter their own villages. People have also developed insensitivity and apathy towards others in the name of social distancing and taking precautions.

It is also true that over-surveillance by government authorities has increased the anxiety among the people, as mentioned by Guru in the editorial. How­ever, the source of this anxiety is not only limited to public surveillance but also extends to over-surveillance by family members who are confined with each other during this period. Reports and data also reveal that during this lockdown, the number of domestic violence cases has increased considerably. National Commission for Women has received a total of 257 complaints, including 69 domestic violence complaints by women. The commission claims that this number is almost double the complaints of domestic abuse they received earlier in March, before COVID-19 took centre stage and India entered the lockdown and isolation phase. On the one hand, people are sharing happy pictures of their families on social media, and on the other hand, they are struggling to live together peacefully due to the shrinking personal space. This situation of isolation is going to bring about new patterns of social relationships that need to be probed in further research.

Supriya Singh

Lucknow

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Updated On : 23rd Dec, 2020

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