COVID-19 Series: #4

Author: Imogen Williams 

One thing keeping me entertained during isolation is scouring the weekly TV guide for films showing free-to-air. I have seen great films such as The King’s Speech, and not-so-great films such as Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. One of the former such films I’ve watched is the 1959 classic On the Beach, directed by Stanley Kramer, based on the novel by Nevil Shute. I’d been wanting to watch it for a while, since my Mum had told me it was a fantastic film with a brilliant cast including Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, Ava Gardner and Anthony Perkins (best known as the creepy smiling guy from Psycho). Plus, it is set in Melbourne!

Eager to find out what Melbourne looked like in the days of my parents’ early childhood (spoilers, very different), I watched the film. All my Mum said was true; it was an eye-opening and thought-provoking masterpiece. The film is set in an alternate Melbourne of 1964, in the aftermath of a nuclear war that had wiped humanity from existence everywhere but Australia. The film follows the final months of a group of people’s lives, as they struggle with the knowledge that a cloud of deadly radiation will inevitably reach Melbourne. So, it was quite a distressing film to be watching in the middle of a pandemic, a time when many of us are experiencing a downturn in our mental wellbeing. For me, however, the viewing of the film seemed apt since many aspects of the film have direct comparisons to our current COVID-19 crisis.

In the film, a young Australian woman, Mary Holmes, is in denial about the situation. She is unable to accept that in a few months, humanity will be no more and she cannot bear to hear anyone talking about it.

People have also had this reaction in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Some, like Mary, are in denial and wish to carry on as if the virus does not exist. We have seen this happen in Melbourne prior to the second wave, with several large families gathering and thus causing outbreaks. Like the film, people are literally gathering on the beach in Australia, and in the US and in the UK. They are ignoring restrictions, not wanting to miss the warm weather, despite the stupidity of such actions. This is still happening during our second lockdown, with people having parties despite the danger they present. Although we can all get tired of constantly hearing about coronavirus, as Mary did about radiation, we must understand the intensity of the situation and respond seriously and sensibly. Mary’s husband Peter understands the enormity of the circumstances and recognises the need to accept the facts and prepare for the worst, which is what we must do too.

Once Mary stops denying humanity’s dreadful plight, she plunges into depression for the remainder of the film. The stress and horror of the COVID-19 crisis has caused some people to do the same, with calls to mental health services in Australia increasing substantially from last year. Crisis support service Beyond Blue reported a 66%, 60% and 47% increase in calls in April, May and June compared to the same months in 2019. Callers reported feeling “worried, uncertain … overwhelmed” and experiencing “exhaustion and fatigue”.

Mary’s denial and depression, and Peter’s pragmatism, are seemingly familiar and justified responses to an unprecedented event. However, the way On the Beach depicts the overall community response to life’s total upheaval, is surprising, I am shocked by the incredible order and calm demonstrated within the film, as the end approached. People having parties, all conducted with an air of civility. There are scenes of drunkenness, sure, but everyone remains fairly reserved. Citizens line up in an orderly fashion to collect their government-supplied suicide pills, as their names get ticked off a list.

There are no fights as people collect their pills – a stark contrast to the video back in March that went viral, of two women selfishly fighting over toilet paper. There was no panic buying, just an acceptance that there will be shortages, like that of petrol, perhaps because WW2 was still fresh in the characters’ minds. Rather than panicking and taking all of the alcohol for themselves, in one scene featuring two men at a club, they simply grumble that there is no way the members will get through all of the bottles of port before the end comes.

Last year, I watched the 2012 American film Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, which detailed the final weeks before Earth was destroyed by an asteroid. This film depicted people behaving and reacting to their impending doom in ways I considered to be far more realistic than in On the Beach. In the modern film, there are riots with people burning buildings and committing murder, because they can get away with it. There is a drunken orgy in a restaurant, and people stop going to work because there is no point, so they generally run around doing whatever they damn well please.

Near the end of On the Beach, Captain Dwight Towers, commander of an American submarine, feels an obligation to captain the submarine back to the US when his crew tell him they would prefer to die at home than in Australia. Dwight is unwilling to do this, since he would like to stay and die with his lover Moira. However, he decides to leave her behind to help his men head home, as he sees this as his duty. He does this despite the fact human civilisation is mere days away from its end.

I told my Mum that the order and goodwill shown in On the Beach seemed unrealistic, and was surprised that she believed this behaviour to be perfectly accurate. Mum explained that she was alive during the tail-end of the era when the film is set, during 1950s and 60s Melbourne, and that in many ways, people showed more care and respect for the good of the whole community, rather than only caring about self-preservation and promotion.

My mother’s words concerned me, and made me wonder – has this sense of good for the whole been lost? I feel that maybe it has, that the good of the individual is now considered more important. However, often what is good for the whole, can also be good for the individual. Though an individual may decide to sneak across the NSW border, because in that moment it seems right for them, in the end this could cause another outbreak, which would in turn negatively impact that individual.

These days, many people seem to be rather disparaging of the phrase ‘the common good’. I have encountered those writing in newspapers and on social media, complaining of how the government is forcing people to be tested “for the common good” as if it is a bad thing! However, some do believe in the importance of ‘the greater good’, and I hope that with time and discussion, more of us will.

In On the Beach, the deadly radiation infecting Melbourne is invisible. An unseen enemy, just as COVID-19 is. Ultimately, though, you cannot hide from this silent killer. It is inevitable, it is going to kill you. The characters of On the Beach cannot self-isolate indoors to escape danger as we can, yet they deal with their situation graciously.

The film concludes with shots of a deserted Melbourne – not a soul on the streets. This is eery because there is no sign of destruction. The buildings are intact, with no markers that anything is wrong but the sheer emptiness of the city. These images are of striking similarity to our quiet Melbourne streets, alongside scenes of deserted precincts in other cities around the world  this year.

When On The Beach was released, the Philadelphia Inquirer stated: “There is not the slightest doubt that this is the most important motion picture ever produced… and the most moving!”. The film is considered important because of its strong anti-nuclear message, yet I now believe this is not the only reason for its importance. On The Beach can teach us plenty about the world today, and how we have changed. Beyond its thematic message, I also recommend the film for its fabulous cinematography, remarkable acting and haunting use of music (a kissing scene backed by the sound of drunken men singing Waltzing Matilda may sound unusual, but is especially poignant).

The media often focuses on the negative and selfish responses to the rules designed to help us. Yet a silent majority do remain, committed to altering their behaviour for the common good. This can be seen by the number of people who write into the ABC’s coronavirus live blog, for example, asking about the right thing to do. Like Dwight, these people personify social responsibility, which we should all aspire to.

If we all do the right thing, then eventually everything will be fine. So why not act with reason and benevolence?

About Imogen Williams

Imogen is a first year student studying a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Business double with majors in History and Marketing! In 2018 she won First Prize in the Senior Secondary School Short Story category of the My Brother Jack Awards with her piece Pensioner Purgatory, which was published online.

COVID-19 Series: #3

Author: Jessica Murdoch 

When the stay at home orders were announced, mixed amongst my general concern was a sense of excitement that isolation would provide an excellent opportunity to catch up on reading, and allow me to (finally!) get to all those TV shows people keep recommending.

However, two months in (or however long it’s been. What even is time anymore?) that hasn’t really eventuated. One of the things I noticed early on in this crisis was my disinterest in watching new shows, or picking up anything unread on my TBR pile. Whenever I tried to settle into something, I felt restless. Choosing something new felt stressful, so I found myself falling back into old favourites I’ve seen or read a hundred times.

The thing is, this it isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this phenomenon. Around exam time or during a busy work period, when I’m feeling anxious, I often find myself falling back into these familiar patterns.

I’ve noticed others acting similarly, too. Is there a reason we reach for something comfortable and familiar when we’re feeling anxious or stressed?  If people aren’t seeking out their old favourite books or shows, they’re sharing their holiday throwbacks on social media, or even simple pictures of past ‘regular’ hangouts with friends, reminiscing about the good times with desperate pleas to ‘take me back’. This type of nostalgia seems to be a behaviour many of us are employing as a counter to the current situation we are all enduring.

In his book Nostalgia: A Psychological Resource, Clay Routledge discusses the way our understandings about nostalgia have changed over the years. Routledge explains that nostalgia was first studied in relation to soldiers fighting away from home, and was believed to be a medical illness. The Swiss medical student who coined the phrase actually defined it as “the pain caused by the desire to return to one’s native land”.

Since that time, researchers have developed a greater awareness that there is a lot more going on for soldiers than homesickness. With continued developments in the field of psychology, scholars started to look at the concept differently, and nostalgia began to be seen more as a general longing for aspects of the past. Not just places, but also people or objects. Rather than being an illness causing these symptoms, nostalgia began to be thought of as more of a behavioural response to distress or stressful situations. Over time, researchers began to consider that nostalgia might be a coping mechanism used to counter a negative state.

By the 90s, psychologists started to embrace a more positive and functional view of nostalgia. While current research still explores whether it is ‘good’ for you, it does recognise nostalgia as an experience that can generate positive affect – that is a greater propensity to happiness and positive emotions.

As far as the question of causation, Routledge points out that nostalgia is far more likely to be experienced when people are distressed than when they are happy or content, and that loneliness may be a particularly potent nostalgia instigator. With that in mind, I think it’s safe to assume that in a global pandemic, even if our immediate safety needs are being met, there may be plenty of reasons to be reaching for nostalgia to help us cope.

For me, it seems like the reading, cooking and listening I’ve been doing could easily fit into this idea of a coping mechanism. So, I’ve decided to outline some of the nostalgic ‘comfort-doing’ I’ve been participating in recently, and explore the kind of thoughts this practice has raised for me, in the hope that it might help you gain some clarity on your own nostalgic behaviours.

Now, I’m probably older than many of you reading – I’m an actual millennial, as opposed to the constantly lazy short-hand way that it’s misused as a synonym for ‘young person I have a preconceived prejudice against’. So, some of my nostalgic throwbacks are probably going to seem ancient to some. Or maybe you’re cool and you like my throwbacks too!  Either way, feel free to sub in whatever books/movies/music you were enjoying through your teens or childhood, and consider whether you’ve been using them in the same way.

Comfort Reading

Sweet Valley High and Anne of Green Gables are both series I read as a teenager. They’ve been providing me with the same level of comfort, only in different ways. Not only are they taking me back to a time when I had far less responsibilities, but they’re allowing me to press pause and escape from my ‘real life’ – just as they did back then.

The Sweet Valley High books have been pure escapism – and pure trash (in the best possible way). Now, anything that young teen girls love is often dismissed as being valueless. And if I’m honest, the feminist in me could rip them apart – particularly the early ones. The first one has unrealistic body expectations and body shaming… and that is literally just on the first page. I mean, they were published in the 80s.

But having the opportunity to figure out some of these things for ourselves is important – I mean, how can you learn what ‘good’ literature is, unless you read all types? That’s not to say these books do no harm to teen readers, but leaving that discussion aside for now, they served a useful purpose. That is: being dramatic, ridiculous, yes problematic, but ultimately soap-opera fantasy fun. Reading doesn’t always have to be serious.

On the other hand, the Anne books have a completely different, much more wholesome feel. There’s always the risk that when you go back to a childhood fave, you’ll discover just how problematic they were, which your naïve kid-self failed to notice (not like SVH above, I think they were blatant enough even for teenage me to see)…now, Anne is not perfect, but I have to say overall that they do surprisingly well for writing published in the early 1900s.

There isn’t glaring overt racism (aside from the overwhelming whiteness – yikes the bar is low). There’s plenty of heteronormative expectations being celebrated and some icky ideas about beauty norms but overall, Anne as a character is so interesting and complex and sweet, and there’s plenty we can still find relatable in her stories today. The vocabulary in this book is not oversimplified for children – and for a kid who loved learning (and mispronouncing, because she’d only ever seen them in print) new ‘big’ words, as Anne herself did, relishing this was a joy in itself.

As an adult, I found myself feeling much more emotional about her horrible start in life, but it also makes her growth, and the growth and growing love of those around her, that much more effecting. The thing about this series, is that it really does feel like it was written to be read as a serial – each chapter often feels very complete – which is perfect for a child to read with a parent. And I’ve been spacing them out to read just a chapter a day – reminiscent of the way I had to read when I wasn’t in charge of my own bedtime.

Comfort listening

I have a pre-adulting playlist already set up on Spotify, which I usually listen to when I have to do the shittier kind of adulting like cleaning the bathroom or vacuuming – but until now, I have never listened so regularly to so many of my high school faves. Spotify has started curating 90s and early 00s focused playlists for me, and it’s been fun rediscovering some oldies that I haven’t heard in a while. Vanessa Amorosi’s Have a Look came on at one point and I was instantly transported back to my high school bedroom, where I sang all those desperate break-up tunes so passionately, having never even been kissed.

It’s not surprising that we are so often attached to our high school hits, even in more typical times. The music that we love in our puberty years – when all of our emotions are often experienced in extremes – will always have a powerful place for so many of us.

Writing for Slate.com, Mark Joseph Stern says, “between the ages of 12 and 22, our brains undergo rapid neurological development—and the music we love during that decade seems to get wired into our lobes for good. When we make neural connections to a song, we also create a strong memory trace that becomes laden with heightened emotion, thanks partly to a surfeit of pubertal growth hormones. These hormones tell our brains that everything is incredibly important—especially the songs that form the soundtrack to our teenage dreams (and embarrassments).”

Comfort cooking

Don’t worry, this subheading is not about making bread (although more power to you if you find that comforting). In fact, a little content warning for this paragraph: like so many of us living in a society where diet culture is constantly being thrown at us, I haven’t always had the healthiest relationship with food. And at times when my mental health has been at its lowest, the effort of making food is often the first to go. Luckily, I’m in a place of my recovery where I’ve learned to notice early warning signs.

For me to make healthy (and by that, I mean, not disordered) food choices, it’s important to remove as many barriers to cooking as possible. That might mean buying precut vegies for example, or ready-made sauces. While I’ve been working to be more mindful of environmental impact and reduce my meat/animal product consumption  for the last five or so years, for my own mental health, I can never place completely rigid rules around my food consumption. With the added stressors popping up currently, I’ve had to loosen those restriction even more and simply give myself permission to accept that I’m doing the best I can.

Usually, I still make the vegetarian option, but the easy, familiar meals of my childhood – often a stir-fry with vegies and some kind of meat – are the best way I can take care of myself right now. The constant jokes and memes about people’s fear of weight gain is damaging enough, putting restrictions on the way I keep my body alive in a global pandemic is something I can’t afford to do.

Those are a few of the ways that nostalgia is helping me at the moment. The truth is, I don’t think I’m feeling terribly lonely right now. I’m an introvert. I’m independent. I enjoy my alone time. But I am anxious, and more than a little stressed about the general state of the world.

Besides, there’s a difference between choosing to stay at home and having to stay at home to keep everyone safe from a global pandemic.

For me, the truth is, having an excuse to stay home is not always the best thing. I may like being shut away at home (insert introvert meme here) but having the perfect built-in excuse to isolate from people is not always the best thing for my health. It’s human nature to do the comfortable thing and with the way ‘self-care’ is often packaged to us these days, it’s easy to convince ourselves that leaning into comfort is the best thing to do. It’s like I have society’s permission to shut myself away and that’s not always the healthiest thing for my brain. I like being on my own but that’s not always the best thing to keep my brain healthy.

So, although I’m enjoying relaxing into some of these nostalgic comforts, I’m also trying to stay aware, so I can catch myself if I start to spiral a little too deeply into my comfortable past.

I mentioned earlier that researchers weren’t completely convinced that nostalgia is ‘good’ for us. While it can be a soothing behaviour, that doesn’t automatically equal good for us, and research has shown that in some cases it can lead to feelings of frustration and discontent.

Dr. Krystine I. Batcho, a licensed psychologist who researches the psychology of nostalgia, says that “the main risk for unhealthy nostalgia lies in trying to do it all ‘solo’”.

Speaking to Mary Grace Garis for Well and Good, she says, “if we find ourselves becoming trapped in sadness, we need to reach out to others. Not only is it great to receive support, but it’s incredibly beneficial to extend support to others. Extending a digital hug to another feels good and can encourage us to look forward to better times. Just as there were good times before, there will be good times ahead.”

Overall, aside from the inconvenience of trying to self-motivate when it comes to studying online, I’ve not found my isolation to be the worst experience. I know how incredibly lucky I am to be in a more secure position than many – the increase in Austudy has meant I’ve actually had enough money to pay rent and manage other living expenses – which is a whole other piece of writing.

I have a safe place to live, enough money to buy food and pay my bills, and friends and family to check in with. So, taking comfort and joy in familiar things while also making sure I’m staying in contact with friends and family, and looking after myself physically and mentally has mostly been manageable.

The truth is, it is important to be gentle with ourselves right now. I’m not going to say that we’re living in unprecedented times, because holy shit am I sick of hearing that from companies still trying to sell us their products. But it’s important to remember that this isn’t the experience we thought we would be having in 2020.

So, if you’re feeling a little stressed about your current circumstances, or more than a little anxious about the future, remember that you can take a little comfort in some familiar experiences, solo or with others, and you’ll be in good company.

About Jessica Murdoch

Jessica is a writer, teacher and experienced list maker who is currently doing a media and comms degree.

She has spent almost a decade teaching primary age students and is passionate about young people having access to critical literacy skills, opportunities to express themselves and quality representation in media. She uses writing to help her figure out her opinions about books, pop culture and the world.
 
You can find her collection of bookish thoughts and reviews, as well as the occasional food shot on her blog or Instagram @mermaidhairandtales. She’s also had writing published in previous editions of Swine and Other Terrain.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

COVID-19 Series: #2

Author: Girish Gupta

There are days I just lay on my bed and listen to the same songs on repeat.

Days when I fall on the carpet in my room and cry and scream as if there’s no soul who could hear me ever.

Days when my muffled crying is too much, as if every brick in the wall of my house is judging me for all those tears.

On these days my trauma takes the most of me, and getting off the bed seems like a task insurmountable.

On these days, I order food for breakfast and end up heating it ten times before it falls into trash the next day.

On these days, the dishes in the sink don’t cry for a wash and the carpet can deal with its own dust.

On these days, I think the worst: of today, of what has happened and what has yet to pass.

The pandemic, while it has us all locked far apart, is a journey of self-growth. Where all the emotions I’d tucked into a bed unknown at the back of my head have woken up, rushing through me. I can’t tell them I’m busy with the next assignment, or that Saturday shifts are no more.

I’ve had to deal with years of unspoken words and hidden-away fears and I’ve learnt to know what the aftermath is.

No, the aftermath isn’t the graveyard of self-worth or the dreamland of sorrow. Neither is it the shadow of self-loathing of all these years.

What comes next is becoming stardust, the kind no sun would ever dare challenge. Or an entire galaxy where the planets bloom and bloom forever.

These days I feel like I can win this world over and still have enough energy to build another.

These are the days called cotton candy coupons, which can be felt as the sweet taste in your mouth, while your hands are all sticky.

These days my house is as clean as ever and smile as bright.

And on those days when my shine swallows the darkness of a million others, I smile because I know that things will fall into place. For while I don’t know when the pandemic of this world might end, I know that the pandemic in me is here to stay.

About Girish Gupta

Girish is 21 year old student of Masters in IT (Data Science), who finds his solace in poetry. He has been published several times in magazines, anthologies, and several blogs. Girish is a firm believer in self-love and promoting mental health awareness. His favourite book is Looking for Alaska and favourite movie is Tamasha(Bollywood) and show is F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

COVID-19 Series: #1

Author: Millie Spencer

In the first week of semester 1, my Global Media Industries lecturer began his lecture by telling us that 70% of people meet their life partner at university…so if we didn’t want to die alone, we should turn up to class. Looking around the room of first years, I could see from their wide eyes and open mouths that they were experiencing an epiphany: ‘I’m actually going to bother turning up to uni!’ But then we were hit with COVID-19, forcing us to stay home, interact with people via a screen and most likely ruin our chances of ever meeting a life partner.

Victoria’s forced lockdown has evidently destabilised traditional expectations of dating life. How has this societal shift, combined with the general instability of life as a university student during a global pandemic, impacted on the lives and mental health of students?

Jazzy Swedosh, a second year Bachelor of Health Science student, suffers from   depression. She told me that COVID-19 exacerbated her tendencies to overthink, resulting in her becoming introspective to the point where she almost lost grip on reality. Her partner who had never experienced depression before also began to suffer, as a result of social isolation and not being able to attend university on campus.

“He needed me to emotionally support him just as he’d done so often to me, but my struggles with mental illness prevented that,” Swedosh explained. “I’d try to help him, but my lack of self-worth believed that I was the reason he was depressed, and that my selfishness about making it all about me only made him feel worse.”

Swedosh and her partner have been together for over a year and generally see each other daily. “[Pre COVID] My boyfriend and I went from having sex every day to about once a week, I was expecting the opposite and I even invested in some sex toys for us to use together.”

Although Swedosh and her partner continued to see each other, they felt their “connection begin to dwindle. “We both lost our sex drive and began to feel not 100% comfortable around each other. We communicated all of this and talked regularly about how this feeling of emotional distance was affecting us, but it’s still just so hard.”

They are currently still seeing each other, but less frequently, Swedosh told me – in the hope that it will give them some more clarity about how to handle this situation. “We are so in love with each other and this is our first real rough patch, and it’s been so hard realizing that we are not immune to struggling with our relationship (as I know no one else is).” She is holding out hope things will go back to normal and their relationship will be stronger than ever. “I am 100% certain that the amount of love we have for each other will prevail and we will be stronger after getting through it together .”

Like Swedosh and her boyfriend, COVID-19 has affected the mental health of many young people in Australia. A recent ANU study indicated that 10.8 per cent of Australians reported a serious mental illness compared to 8.7 per cent in 2017. With young people aged between 18-34 years being largely responsible for this increase, the impact of the pandemic on our dating lives becomes clearer.

However, the global pandemic didn’t quite spell doom for P’s love life. P, a Swinburne student and academic staff member who wishes to remain anonymous, took to online dating for the first time during the pandemic. It had been a while since she last had a relationship, so she took the opportunity to delve into the world of dating by downloading Bumble.

She swiped right and quickly initiated a connection with someone who worked near her. “We recognised each other from work, so it was already a bit promising,” P told me. They managed to catch up for two dates before Victoria was in a complete lockdown and decided to continue dating by moving their relationship online, where they tried to be inventive with their virtual dates. Because her date worked in the hospitality sector, they organised to cook food for each other and drop it off to their respective houses “without actually interacting”. Video calls asking deep questions, virtual cards against humanity and Netflix watch parties were also common for the pair.

P said they had “great conversations” and got to know each other quickly, which was a welcome contrast to her previous dating experiences, where the physical tends to happen early on. “In this case it was very much like getting to know the person for who they are, which was really lovely.”

However, P said the online dating experience was full of ups and downs. Sometimes she would feel amazing after their dates, while at other times, they would message each other and express how flat they felt because they couldn’t see each other in person. “I think those ups and downs sometimes can impact you a lot harder, especially in isolation. You don’t really have your friends that you can see in person to vent to, or chat about the date with, you can talk to them with video call, but it’s different to when you can just hug a friend.”

With her main focus during the pandemic being to keep her family safe, keep herself safe “and not spread anything”, P set clear boundaries with her date, including “not catching up in person until the health authorities/Government said it was finally safe to do so.”

While they were aware of the fact that partners were allowed to see each other during lockdown, P says they we were not quite at “that stage”, which left the pair in a “weird grey area.” These boundaries proved to reveal their compatibility. “I eventually found out he was not really honouring the lockdown restrictions, whereas I was being a bit more strict with them.”

As restrictions started to ease, P arranged an in-person date. But the week before the date was due to happen, her date became very “flaky and distant.” Eventually, he called P and told her “considering you’re so worried about the health side of things, you know, I’m still going to be going out, catching up with friends. I’m still going to be doing all this stuff and I’m not sure how comfortable you’re going to feel around me. So maybe it’s best we wrap this up.”

“It threw me off quite a bit, because his personality on the phone was completely different to how he had been this entire time,” P said.

P said this experience was a “massive learning curve”, with her date’s refusal to adhere to lockdown restrictions “being an indicator of [us] not being on the same page in general”. “If someone can’t take the situation seriously and do the right thing, it makes you question how seriously they’ll take any situation.”

She advised that for anyone struggling with dating or relationships, setting boundaries that allow you to uphold your personal values is vital ,“especially during something like a pandemic when you have kind of no choice but to uphold those values, you can really kind of filter out the ones who are really not meant for you.”

Essentially, this experience has allowed P to learn more about herself and unpack what she wants in a relationship. Though online dating can be flaky and end quickly as a result, “either way [it’s an] insane learning experience and, definitely something that you reflect on when you’re like 80 years old and you’d be like, yeah, during the COVID-19 pandemic I dated someone.”

“I think it’s given me a really good insight into dating, for when it becomes a bit more normal again. Honing more into that beginning phase of really getting to know the person and testing those boundaries and seeing where you both lie,” she said.

“Pandemic virtual dating [is] actually quite a heavy thing to deal with and what would typically be a casual dating experience could end up [feeling] just as serious as a monogamous dating experience,” she added.

“For anyone who’s not done long distance before, you know you can do it if you can do it in a pandemic.”

P is now more open and confident about the idea of online dating. Mid-pandemic or otherwise, explaining that she “definitely wouldn’t deny the experience in the future.” With that said, online dating can foster a “keyboard warrior mentality” that may leave couples less connected to each other. “Sometimes I think you make promises and, you know, you kind of create all these ideas because you feel less, I guess, attached to the situation because it is more virtual.”

In order to succeed, P believes that online dating requires a mutual agreement between both people from the beginning, to ensure that clear boundaries are set and open communication is established.

“I think it takes a cliché; it takes two to tango.”

She added that both people should disclose what they are willing to do or not do, understand each other’s preferences and engage in consistent, open communication.

“And you know, the minute you feel like you can’t do it anymore, just say it because the worst thing is not getting messages back for a week.”

Though COVID-19 has simultaneously impacted the relationships and mental health of students, it has allowed some young couples to forge stronger bonds. Pippa Criss-Chisholm, a fourth-year part time student studying Games and Interactivity, has been living with her partner Austin throughout the pandemic. Criss-Chisholm has had to take on the “home maker role rather than working partner role” after losing her job.

“I somehow feel as if I have let down my feminist predecessors by losing my job,” she said.

Criss-Chisholm explains that her mental health has suffered as a result, presenting a challenge for the couple.

“[Austin] is endlessly supportive but when I’m spending 9 hours of my day by myself, a lot of those hours after dark, there is only so much he can help.”

Despite these difficulties, Austin has been a great source of support for Criss-Chisholm. “He held me through my tears of anger and grief, my panic and not being able to get what we needed from the shops,” she said.

“He has been my rock. He even nursed me when I became sick and had to isolate after testing and made sure I was warm and cared for.”

Criss-Chisholm has noticed a change in her relationship dynamic due to the stress of losing her job and being isolated from family and friends. Being alone for most of the days, Criss-Chisholm now treasures the evenings and weekends when Austin is home from work.

Evidently, dating during COVID -19 is complex and multifaceted in nature – and doesn’t come without its low-points. Many of us have had to adapt by moving beyond conventional ways of initiating and maintaining relationships.

2020 has been life-changing for many of us, but the stories of Jazzy, Pippa and P have shown that when we think creatively, support our partners and set clear boundaries, our relationships can serve as a great source of comfort when the world feels like it has been flipped on its head.

About Millie Spencer 

Millie is a first year Media and Communications student majoring in Journalism and Media Industries. She has written for the Swine, The Standard and is the editor of Boroondara Youth’s online publication SPACE Reviews. Millie has a background in Arts and Events and one day hopes to work as a Producer or Media Advisor for a media outlet or arts organisation. In her spare time Millie enjoys walking, baking sourdough, playing with her puppy Bonnie and shopping for earrings made by local designers, adding to her growing collection!