Friends Off: Diving into Polarizing Impact of Covid-19 and Pandemic Beliefs

Broken Friendship Pictures, Photos, and Images for Facebook, Tumblr,  Pinterest, and Twitter

As the year 2020 unfolded it started with the bushfires raging across Australia, burning 18.6M hectares and killing 1B animals. Then, the US drone hit Baghdad International Airport and took down Iranian major general. With war breathing over the shoulder, and racial tensions over police brutality reaching a boiling point, we got dealt with the worst pandemic in recent history that killed 1.4 million people so far. I’ll spare you the rest.

A year ago I was blissfully ignorant to the deep rooted belief systems within my peer network. Those were simpler times when the pre-requisites for relationships with one another were based on whether they made us laugh and offered companionship. The interactions with one another grew with safe and respectful dialogue whereby the intimate bonds and connections over shared experiences and emotions were validated through the feelings of acceptance and belonging.

But as we enter another year in the same predicament, new conversations are occurring as we look back and reflect on the changes in our lives. The biggest change I think many people can attest to is the breakdown of many friendships and relationships that at one time held significant space in our lives. It’s evident that people’s perceptions of others within their peer network vary within their own position amidst the pandemic and how they’ve chose to operate within it. I’m 100% guilty of unfollowing, filtering and overtly ignoring my exposure to opinions whereby I feel I may be experience judgment about their character as a result of their beliefs. I’m sure it goes both ways as well.

For the purpose of this conversation it’s important for me to identify where my beliefs lie in the grand scheme of things.

I believe there is a pandemic and I believe that the stats being provided are vastly minimized as a result of our 3rd world countries not having the ability to provide testing in addition the ability report accurate death tolls. I believe the vulnerable and disenfranchised voices have been silenced by those who carry the privilege of youthfulness, good health, and access to health care and mental health benefits. I believe in the recommendations that are being provided by the health organizations and I’ve chosen to listen to them. I believe the circumstances of mistrust and convoluted information sharing has polluted minds as opposed to “Awaken” their ability to think independently. I believe in the right to exercise ones rights as long as it is not at the detriment of public health. I believe it is necessary to be considerate of the varying ways people are choosing to navigate within these trying times. I believe I should be sensitive and cautious about what I choose to share as it may be triggering or upsetting to others on a public platform.

“Geography divides people only if the people allow it – faith divides people only if the people allow it – intellect divides people only if the people allow it – politics divides people only if the people allow it. So, unless the people allow it, nothing can tear our world apart. Unless you allow it, nothing can tear our society apart.”

― Abhijit Naskar, Aşkanjali: The Sufi Sermon

In addition I am coming from the place if a person who was infected with Covid-19 in July 2020 and do not believe it is “just a flu” for everyone as a result of my own experience with it. Read More Here

I am fine with wearing masks and I’m fine with getting a vaccine as I’m a frontline worker within vulnerable communities. Everyday I face the risk of exposing my elderly mother who lives with us to Covid-19. I don’t care about what others choose- to each their own. I’ve oscillated between being hyper vigilant to neglectful with regards to adhering to the gathering rules and I have hugged friends and entertained a select few in the basement of my home on occasions. I struggle between my own selfish needs for company and the need to protect the health and wellbeing of others who could die from Covid. One could say I am a hypocrite- I choose a kinder term- I’m only human.

Many friends and acquaintances in my network managed to adopt passionate voices for Human Rights; but not when the racial inequality reached its boiling point this year, but rather when they were told to wear a mask. Many used their voice to fight and support causes that in my opinion outed their ignorance and bigoted attitudes. I admittedly chose to fall back from these people when I realized how self serving they were and that they no longer had a place in my bubble. So as you can see I’m no stranger to the divide and recognize that my tolerance for stupidity is less than forgiving. As harsh as my disclosure may sound, I thinks it’s important to highlight my own biases for the purposes of recognizing that intolerance exists at both ends of the spectrums. My own ability to engage in dialogue that perhaps could facilitate understanding seems to require far too much energy that I simply do not have. We are all placed in difficult positions of having to navigate how to simultaneously process and make sense of our own heightened feelings of vulnerability and anxiety, while also staying attuned to our friends and family’s needs and creating a “holding space” for their anxieties.  This weighs on our patience and ability to feel empathetic, and we cannot always be expected to respond 100% of the time with our best foot forward. But try telling that though to the friend or family member who feels like you are not doing enough- or just do what I do-Not Give a Fuck.

So this in a nutshell is the lens I am coming from. And while some may align themselves with what I’ve shared, I’m sure 50% also disagree. Which leads me to believe we are more prone than ever to show people the door and give them the boot. We becoming more polarized within our once treasured friendships which are dissolving at an alarming rate.

The Grumpy Introvert's Advice on Friend Breakups

There are probably many reasons. Could social media be driving polarization? Many people think so—and, indeed, Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter have all become sites of ferocious political argument. Social media, it seems, amp up moral and emotional messages while organizing people into digital communities based on tribal conflicts. The recent Trump incited riots and storming of the capital is a good representation as to how social media has provided a platform for similar minded communities to unite and organize. There was a common assumption that radicalism only existed within the Islamic extremists, focusing on how these groups were used to groom and recruit supporters. Needless to say, the predominantly white extremists who prefer the term “Patriots” continue to be given Oxygen via their online platforms, feeding on the vulnerable, and for a better term, the Gullible. Domestic terrorism has been vastly overlooked as White nationalists are now the #1 threat facing the United States in regards to terrorism. Nationalist Chapters in Canada continue to grow at rapid rates as well, capitalizing on those seeking to find refuge among seemingly like-minded people.

“We can divide the river’s flow and subsequently channel its splintered force in any way that our selfish agendas might compel us. However, it all ends up in the sea, for although the river’s power might be diminished by such meddling, its destination is not. And on this mutual journey to the seas of freedom, might we as the human race remember the mighty river that we are. And in remembering that, may we soundly reject those who would selfishly divide our unity in order to prompt us to lesser seas”

― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Many have become complacent as they scurry to find a place to belong as their personal divides grow. Global events have evoked polarized public response whereby many have felt the responsibility to share their poorly sourced collection of “research.”  It has served to reinforce their personal beliefs in addition inadvertently push agenda’s that often people are innocently unaware of. There is a reason why a very small portion of us have  gone on to obtain PHD’s; to publish a factual article and science based study at this level requires almost half a human life span.  Meanwhile we have Facebook Franny spitting Wikipedia facts whereby Gullible Glenda spams her timeline and so on.

I fondly reflect back on March 2020, when we all clung to the novelty of Zoom hangouts and remote celebrations as the circumstances felt all so temporary. With the deepening of visible divisions in how people are handling the ongoing pandemic have become the source of growing tension resulting in a decreased desire to connect with those on the opposing side. As our lives have become quieter, many of us face difficulty finding something to talk about. In fact I struggle weekly to figure out what I’m going to write about that isn’t Covid-19 related. My desire to see people via zoom is not appealing as I spend the majority of my day staring at my double chin in a never ending series of WebEx meetings.

The escalating toxicity of the polarization within our friendships and relationships, I cannot avoid mentioning that there is another side to the story. Some have said their relationships have strengthened during this time, as they have prioritized whom they care about and how often they check in. This in actuality is healthy, and perhaps a practice many of us should have been practicing long ago. Ego’s will always be bruised in the process and feelings hurt; but consider the benefits of having more time to invest in yourself and your own growth having less baggage to worry about.

In Conclusion these are the facts:

  • For some, their values no longer align
  • For others, it’s not differences — but distance
  • Our relationships may have been forever altered
  • We are all Grieving the Losses

Ultimately, relationships may be affected forever after the pandemic and we will emerge not the same people we were a year ago. This will be one of the many traumas to come out of 2020/2021 that we don’t even fully know about yet.

“Each thinker will regard anything that clashes with his or her worldview to be insane and in conflict with reality. That’s because each thinker regards his or her worldview as reality itself and not as just an inner illusion. However, worldviews are just inner illusions. Making matters worse, people with similar worldviews tend to join with others who share major elements of their worldviews, and they tend to avoid those people who have worldviews that aren’t similar. This segregation results in confirmation bias among peers, making matters much worse.”


― Petros Scientia

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