how to human
I've found myself in a pandemic-enforced dilemma. I've forgotten not only how to socialise but how to be a social human. I've noticed in various scenarios how absurdly anxious I get around large gatherings of other humans, and this is something I never had a problem with before. As such, it's worth a blog post and introspectively investigating.
Given my many years of experience in radio and the entertainment industry in general, I had become used to speaking with people I didn't know over the best part of a decade, and not only being around random humans but performing in front of thousands of people - sometimes on a weekly basis; socialising was the norm, week in and week out. After selectively deciding to "retire" from music around 2018, I began to enjoy the solitude which comes with stepping back from the public light, and for a number of years I enjoyed socialising in much smaller groups. After the pandemic hit, I found myself dazed and confused by any size of social group, and I'm noticing more frequently just how uncomfortable this has become.
COVID-19 shook everyone. I don't think there's a single person that has not been effected by the pandemic in one way or another. For many it was a result of health effects, but for (in my opinion) even more people, the psycho-social effects are even more severe. Mask mandates have long-disappeared but many individuals continue to shield themselves from disease. And rightly so - vast numbers of people have vulnerable immune systems and the pandemic heightened the awareness of the masses to these vulnerabilities. But for people like myself, I found I would continue using a mask because of a distrust in others to sanitise and show respect for the health of others. The other effect, and the main crux of this blog post, is the social anxiety that a post-pandemic world has created. How do we socialise after we had to, in essence, 'un-learn' the natural processes of socialisation from our collective psyche? We were stuck at home, desperate to find ways to connect with others - thankfully, 21st century technology never ceases to amaze and the imagination of creators and developers connected us together in innovative new ways. But after the pandemic subsided, I noticed that I was struggling to be the social creature I was before.
What on Earth happened? As I write this, I'm still not sure.
I continue to meet with friends in social situations, whether it be over dinner, a drink or running into them at a random place and saying hello. What I've increasingly noticed, however, is a background feeling of anxiety that didn't exist prior to the pandemic. I can't tell if the pandemic changed the way I felt in social situations (by being seperated from people for extended periods) or if I've grown to be different from my former social self; the pandemic may have been a coincidence in my evolution as a human being. But being present in a social situation, speaking with someone I trust and have known for years, and not knowing what to say to them, or feeling like an idiot for having ventured into the milieu in the first place, feels like I have reduced to the lowest denominator of a social human and forgotten who I was, and what I wanted to be.
As I write this, it feels like there's a lot more to be said here in the future because these words are flowing out of my fingers at a reliably fast typing speed. All I hope though, is that my social anxiety subsides sooner rather than later. Humans are social beings and we feed off the energy of others whether we like it or not. I've always considered myself an introspective and introverted person, preferring my own company to that of others - and this may explain why I feel the way I do, becoming more comfortable with my introverted preference. But without a doubt, something has changed in how to be a human for me, and I'm going to have to work out what that really is.