Suffering Through Small Talk: Re-Adjusting to an In-Person World


Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

After losing access to our friends and loved ones, days out, and activities like gigs and the gym for the sake of protecting each other, we have all been forced to find comfort in our own personal bubbles. Aside from brief interludes of having to order a burger and chips in order to meet friends for drinks, for the majority of us, our socialisation has become even more reliant than ever on social media. As we approach the conclusion of a socially distanced year, feeling almost too comfortable socialising online has made me wonder how I will compare when we go back to an in-person world. 

Having recently returned to my student accommodation, it has been a nasty shock realising to what extent I’ve lost some ability to communicate face-to-face outside of my family. I prepared for the experience of our relationships needing to re-adjust after a term apart following the Christmas lockdown, as with any return to a long distance friendship. Despite the fun of being reunited with my flatmates and being asked what I’ve been up to, usually an easy enough start to a reuniting conversation has been met with a very honest, slightly panicked reply of “nothing at all” – and how can it be anything else?

You’re hit with the realisation that waking up at lunchtime day-in-day-out, eating instant noodles and going for a very repetitive walk around the block everyday just doesn’t inspire interest. You think very hard to remind yourself that you must have new hobbies and interests inspired by all those motivational lockdown campaigns, but little springs to mind that you actually committed to. People don’t really care if you’ve changed your workout routine or started buying oat milk instead of soy. In a new context away from the comfort bubble of my home, a realisation hits me – I’ve become much more boring.

For a lot of us, these final few weeks leading up to the end of lockdown have brought into focus the fear of whether or not we’ve lost parts of our personalities and motivations. Losing contact with our loved ones, those days where Zoom calls don’t always cut it, going months without the comfort of sports and gigs, and even missing being able to control our appearance through hair appointments and new tattoos have shaped our feelings of losing parts of ourselves or how we want to be seen. 

In the years following my anxiety diagnosis as a teenager, I put in a lot of work to have a happier, more confident attitude to enjoying new experiences and new people. It’s impossible to avoid the feeling of regressing over lockdown after losing access to the things that reassure you socially. I’ve returned to my routine of sending slow replies to messages despite staying on social media till the early hours of the morning – stuck in a pattern of comfort behaviour. With each “big mood” said in agreement to someone’s attempt at making conversation, I’m left wincing at not thinking of anything that wouldn’t sound normal if said offline.

Likely influenced by the growth of lockdown glow-up goals and the built up wariness of closeness that has come from habitual social distancing, there seems to be a simmering nervousness around stepping back into social situations. While we mentally brace for learning to trust being close to each other again, the hourglass for the mythical post-lockdown transformation is running out of sand, and with that knowledge brings a fresh new fear around comparing ourselves to others.

However, new experiences may have emerged during lockdown that have improved our personalities in some ways. A break from a busy world for some may have broken them out of  the cycle of work pressure and early commutes, a reduction in the need to keep up with others and the lessened the trap of FOMO that social media often brings. The same-ness of us all being home-bound with time to reflect has helped many of us adjust focus and find some new sense of awareness, something that I hope holds true once we return to normal.

The post-lockdown bounce back is likely to be a very entertaining and confusing time for a lot of us as we re-adjust to our social lives and rush to make up for lost time. After pushing through the inevitable “I’ve not been up to anything, How about you?“s of the first few meetups, the fear of being sat in Spoons for the first time with my friends not knowing what to say will become much easier as we realise we will all be fumbling our way through it together.


Leave A Reply