It has become quiet. Little can still be felt of the vibrating energy of the big city. The streets are empty, the subway too. Schools and day care centers are orphaned. We are still in the deceleration phase. It is the last stage before the curfew. If it is imposed because too many people do not follow the recommendations to contain the pandemic, the calm will become an uncanny silence. A look at Paris or Milan is enough. And then it not only becomes very quiet around us, but also quickly lonely.
Loneliness is a destructive feeling
More and more people are suffering at times normal activity under loneliness, this destructive feeling of being socially isolated, separated. Loneliness is a new common illness in our fast-moving, mobile societies. Aid organizations even speak of an “epidemic in secret” that just makes you sick.
Of course, one first thinks of older people, whose social contacts are often limited. They make up 20 percent of the population in Berlin. Surprisingly, adolescents and younger people also suffer from it. If, to curb the pandemic, no one is really allowed to leave the house without good reason. Then suddenly many more people will feel lonely.
This may not apply to families with children, who are more likely to struggle with the unfamiliar long-term proximity in their own apartment. And desperately want a retreat where they could be alone. But Berlin is the capital of single households – in about half of all households one person lives alone. Young and old. It is similar in other major German cities.
People are thrown back on themselves abruptly
Of course, not everyone who is alone is equally lonely. The crucial difference is whether you decide to retire yourself, spend time with a book or in nature – or whether you are forced to be alone. Just as this now threatens with a curfew. She would throw many people back on themselves abruptly.
Suddenly many people would realize how important a regular daily routine, a structure that must be for them to function – as a protective wall against brooding over the big questions of meaning. The increased use of telephone crisis and pastoral services is already evidence that many people are having trouble coping with the restrictions.
We are prescribed private isolation
Of course, thanks to the Internet and social media, there are countless opportunities for communication and distraction today. And Republic is going through a kind of digital revolution. Hopefully home office and e-learning will find their way into everyday work in Germany. But whether these connections help against the social isolation in private, which we are now being prescribed?
The advice literature on escaping from loneliness fills shelves and is full of instructions in just a few steps: go out, do sports, that go through the old address book and make an appointment, give life meaning. Only that a large part of these ideas is currently not feasible. The Minister for Loneliness in Great Britain – an office that was newly created in 2018 – can probably do little to help at the moment: From 2023 it should be prescribed for this condition for social activities instead of medication.
So we are faced with the paradox that loneliness can only be combated with what is currently at least physically forbidden to us: social contacts. A weak consolation: “A hundred years of loneliness” like in the epic by the Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez will not be. But maybe 100 days already.