Commentary by Matilde Monteleone | Illustration by Armadilly
We are in the middle of the second wave of this global pandemic, and more and more countries are taking the path of lockdown through some form of restriction. We are often told to “stay at home”, to prevent infections and protect others. However, one cannot help thinking nostalgically of the freedom that we used to enjoy and that we always took for granted.
Paraphrasing Australian singer Courtney Barnett, we want to go out, but we also want to (and must) stay at home. Ironically, the cold comfort in this difficult situation is that we no longer have to think about what to do on the weekend, and the insistent pressure of having to go out is finally gone. Before COVID-19, lockdowns and this new normality made of masks, smart working, and social distancing, when the highlight of our evenings was not yet watching the latest Netflix release or baking cakes, we all experienced the so-called fear of missing out at least once. The fear of missing out, in shorthand FOMO consists of the fear of being cut off from the exciting reality that fills other people’s lives, and that we can often see passing through our fingers on social media.
How many times, while scrolling on Instagram, have we thought that others were doing something more interesting or fun than us? It was this very thought that inspired Barnett’s lyrics for “Nobody really cares if you don’t go to the party”. In the circumstances that have characterized the last months, Barnett’s song seems more relevant than ever: nobody really cares if you don’t go to the party–but this time it is because there are no parties at all.
During the lockdown, the inability to go out, coupled with the pressure to stay home, has caused some of us to draw a sense of comfort and tranquility from our new routine. In many cases, FOMO has been replaced by a real “hut syndrome“, a condition that affects those who have spent a lot of time isolated from society and, even though they find themselves free, voluntarily decide not to go out or do so with great discomfort. As Dr. Arunesh Mishra states, “Our home represents a place of safety, security and emotional respite from the stress of our daily lives (…) Over the extended period of quarantine, people may have adjusted to the stress of the pandemic and are now finding comfort in feeling safe from exposure to the virus by being home. What in the early weeks of quarantine may have been challenging is now a ‘new normal’ and people are finding routines at home.”
What is certain is that, besides the dauting physical symptoms linked to COVID-19, there are just as many psychological effects that should not be underestimated, especially for the mental health of young people.