A Dose of Inspiration for Our Lost Youth During Covid-19 | campus.sg

Covid-19 pandemic youth
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Do you find it insipid or inspirational when someone has something like “Live, Laugh, Love” printed on their wall (or their t-shirt)? Motivational quotes have always been around, inspiring us to do better (or taunting us when we fail). In the context of living with Covid-19 as our new normal, one saying that seems apt is:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Basically, it feels like the more acceptable version of this localised quote:

Accepting what we can’t change

There’s been a lot of discussion among the youth about what’s lost. Many didn’t get to walk across the graduation stage last year. Most who were single when Covid-19 started haven’t been on a date – even a bad one – in 2 years. No one can go clubbing, dancing, or singing karaoke. Even eating out in big groups hasn’t been possible. Hardly anyone has even travelled in the last two years. The loss of all these things is depressing.

A recent survey found that 58% of Singaporean millennials are fearful and 54% report they are less sociable after 2 years of Covid-19. Another found that of those respondents who were actively looking for a partner / girlfriend / boyfriend, 45% had not been on an in-person date since the pandemic.

Feelings like loneliness and anxiety are real, and we can’t diminish their importance in any discussion about the pandemic. Case in point, suicide remains the leading cause of of death in the 10-29 year old demographic, and suicide rates have only risen since the pandemic.

The government said the measures were necessary to protect our elderly. Protect our hospitals. Protect our economy. It is what it is. Nobody had all the answers back then. Now as we ease towards a “new normal,” we know can’t change the wisdom of earlier responses, so we should focus on what we can change.

The courage to change what we can

Almost all of us have gotten fully vaxxed. We have access to ART tests at home. Compared to two years ago, we now know you don’t need to sanitise your Grab delivery bag before opening it, or strip off and burn your clothes when you come back home.

Knowing all this, we can actually start changing our outlook. Yes, maximum group sizes of 5 are not the same as going out with your 17 closest friends, but then how many of them were you really that close to anyway? If we’re being honest, going out to party with 17 friends would mean most of your evening is spent in a 17-person Whatsapp chat.

Experts agree that while isolation can take a toll on your well-being, and people need some human contact to thrive, but the number of friends you surround yourself with is far less important than the level of connection you have with the people closest to you.

And if we’re being honest a group of five friends is arguably more than enough in almost any circumstance.

Both research and anecdotal evidence points to 5 people being the optimal number for conversations. According to anthropologist Dr. Robin Dunbar’s famous “Dunbar’s Number,” the tightest circle of social connections has just five people (loved ones).

A famous study on Group Geometry found that 5 people is the ideal, maximum number to create the meaningful social interaction that rewards our brains with dopamines – just enough variety to feel exciting, but small enough to feel intimate.

A 2014 study of ancient and contemporary art found more than half of all “groups” in famous paintings are less than 3 people, and representations of larger groups tended to be used to show conflict, discord, or even chaos. Maybe art really does imitate life, since we all know the bigger the group, the messier it is.

This is probably why most group projects don’t consist of more than 5 team members. And maybe even why a “bucket of beer” comes in 5 bottles.

The wisdom to know the difference

It’s one thing to tell ourselves we were happier in the before-times, when we could gather with any large group of friends, unmasked, past 10:30pm, wherever we liked. Those times were great, and hopefully we get back to them, but it’s another thing entirely to repeat that idea to ourselves ad nauseam until we rob ourselves of the opportunity to ever find joy here and now, because we just keep lamenting what we lost.

But malls are open. Cafes are open. Parks are open. Restaurants are open. Gyms are open. We need to practice making small talk again. We need to stop telling ourselves it was better before. Because, frankly things could be a lot worse.