An early spate of Zoom quizzes and calls has abated in favour of the rare pleasures of occasionally seeing a friend from a maddening distance. It's still bizarreby Caspar Salmon / July 7, 2020 / Leave a comment
We thought there would be an ending. So much of the past three months has stretched credibility, but now, as we find ourselves in these uncertain times, it seems scarcely believable that we bought into the comforting myth that there would be a neat conclusion to the virus.
But we did. The idea that there would be a clean ending—after which we could all go out once more and embrace our friends, go on holiday, get pissed at the restaurant and have sex again—was what got so many of us through those early weeks of sudden isolation. We told our families that we would hug the life out of them after this was all over; we agreed to deferred dates; we imagined ourselves at a raucous table, surrounded by friends in our favourite pub, toasting the end of the virus. A viral TikTok video in April imagined the joy of renewed community at your local once lockdown was over; thousands of geezers chorusing Truly Madly Deeply as one.
What we didn’t know (perhaps partly because other countries that haven’t made such a hash of their outbreak have managed smoother transitions from lockdown) was that coming out of isolation would be a more compromised affair, demanding an endless succession of anxiety-inducing judgment calls. In the process, those previously uncomplicated joys have come to feel tarnished. Fear and anxiety now sully our every interaction. As for spontaneity—to quote Mariah Carey, I don’t know her.
Now, the early spate of quizzes and group calls has abated in favour of the rare, mitigated pleasures of occasionally seeing a friend from a maddening distance. This simulacrum of contact, like a mocking ghost of what our relationships were before, carries a whole new set of frustrations. Foremost among these is what we have lost in touch. In the early stages of the pandemic we discovered with alarm how much we touch our faces—between 2,000 and 3,000 times a day, according to Kate Winslet in Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion—but data on how much we touch other people when interacting them was thinner on the ground. Now we can only estimate how much we used to touch our…