QuaranTeens: The Effects of Social Isolation

With+the+Coronavirus+forcing+everybody+to+social+distance+and+quarantine+at+home%2C+students+are+struggling+with+their+emotional+well+being.+

Olivia Wurtz

With the Coronavirus forcing everybody to social distance and quarantine at home, students are struggling with their emotional well being.

By Osaivbie Uhunmwuangho, Lake Ridge High School

With the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease, schools across the globe have shut down and moved to online classes. The contagious disease has medical professionals encouraging the idea of isolating oneself from socializing in the form of physical interaction.

Toward the end of spring break, Mansfield ISD made the decision to extend students’ time off by adding two extra weeks to their break, with the goal of preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Junior Heymunth Harkara says that his initial reaction to hearing this news was one of contentment. However, once the district added one more week to the extension, thus declaring school postponed until April 3rd, he now feels more worried.

“When I heard the first extension, I felt pretty good because I didn’t have a sense of danger. I was just thinking, ‘Okay, they’re trying to contain it a little bit and we need to stay a little bit more cautious.’ Now, I’m kind of scared, but I try to not let it get the best of me and still be rational,” Harkara said.

The concept of waking up to an alarm set for 6:30 AM to making a plan to start homework immediately after school encourages students to incorporate habits into their daily routines. Harkara says that with him being at home for longer than usual, he finds it difficult to have that sense of organization.

“I haven’t had a real routine. I kind of depend on school for that because it gives me something to look forward to at least. With the normal break, I usually let loose. But since it’s extended and we have actual school work to do, it’s hard trying to find a semblance of a routine to follow. It’s been really damaging actually. Personally, I feel like the days are blending together into one continuous thing,” Harkara said.

It is highly suggested by the CDC that people practice social distancing, meaning interaction with people in large gatherings is not recommended. With this in mind, Harkara feels lost without the face-to-face interaction he was used to getting at school.

“It feels like a part of my life has been taken away from me. Usually, I was able to go out and do my own thing comfortably without worry. I don’t know if it’s the news or just my own intuition, but I’m scared to go outside now because [the virus] is spreading everywhere,” said Harkara. “I don’t know what to make of it all.”

By self-quarantining at home, Harkara says he does not find it relieving to be out of school.

“I do miss physically being at school because I’ve learned that humans are social animals and we need some company with people outside of our family. It’s really sad to have that taken away from me as well. Because of that, I’ve been alone. I definitely miss my friends at school,” Harkara said.

Additionally, Harkara says that since the duration of being quarantined is so unpredictable, it’s become stressful for him.

“Being socially isolated feels very nerve-wracking because you don’t know when the order will be for everyone to come out freely again. You just have to stay inside hoping that this will all be over soon, and maybe the government will find a cure. It’s all just very uncertain,” Harkara said.

Similar to Harkara, senior Gilliana Tawaran said she felt joy when she first heard about the spring break extension. Once she heard the reasoning behind the decision, she discovered how severe the situation actually was.

“When I received the news about the extended spring break, I can admit that I was excited about it, mostly because I was still in a ‘spring break’ state of mind. However, upon reading more about the current situation and spread of the pandemic, I find it extremely difficult to process the severity of the situation and the way it has negatively impacted so many.”

Having to stay at home for an unexpectedly long period of time, Tawaran says that she has become aware of the lack of excitement that comes from being socially isolated, especially now with the uncertainty of when she will get to see her friends again.

“My time alone has been increasingly mundane and for a lack of a better word, depressing. Before the quarantine, I kept myself occupied by going out with friends. But as more days pass, it becomes harder to spend time without them,” said Tawaran. “It has also made me realize that I don’t have as many stay-at-home hobbies as I thought I did, which has been giving me an excuse to find creative ways to keep myself occupied and productive.”

If the district decides to keep students out of school until the end of the school year, Tawaran says that her senior year experience will have been heavily affected because the things she looked forward to being a part of might not happen.

“As a senior, it is bittersweet having switched to online classes because I would often visit old teachers after school to catch up. It’s almost as if my senior year has been cut short in light of the pandemic since many senior events have been canceled or indefinitely postponed. As crazy as it may sound, I’ve even started to miss the school lunches,” Tawaran said.

Although her lifestyle has become disrupted, Tawaran says that this form of isolation has allowed her to reflect on herself and on the things she may not be grateful for enough.

“Without the set routine school provided, it has been difficult to plan a schedule for myself, as it is easy to lose productivity and valuable work time these days. It has made me realize that self-discipline is an important characteristic to have and that face-to-face education should not be taken for granted,” Tawaran said.

Senior Summer Johnson says she doesn’t like the ambiguity of whether or not she will be able to participate in the major events that most seniors look forward to.

“I want normalcy again and I want to know for sure that we’re having a prom and graduation. I really want to go back to school and I miss my friends. This isolation has made me realize how social I am and how much school is a part of my daily life, even though I may dread going to it,” Johnson said.

Due to the unexpected time she is given off of school and having to distance herself from others, Johnson finds her days of social isolation to be a bit monotonous.

“It feels like every day is Groundhog Day because the day is just repeating. You wake up and do the same thing every day, so it’s very mundane. I miss socializing with people who aren’t my family. Even eating lunch in the cafeteria and being around other people. Having an established routine, then having it be disrupted saddening,” said Johnson.

The media constantly promotes the idea of social distancing with the goal of informing people. Johnson says that because of this, she finds joy in the little things she would do on a regular basis.

“I feel like everyone’s anxiety has gone up, especially because we’re on social media more and exposed to more news articles surrounding [the coronavirus]. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed and scared about it. I would say it has given me a greater appreciation for things I used to dread like going to class. I got to go to the store for the first time in three weeks. It was amazing!” said Johnson. “Simple things like that make me understand how special it is to just have a normal life.”

This story was originally published on Eagle Nation News on March 26, 2020.