Something someone said to me lately has been sticking in my brain a lot. We were talking about how people had reacted on social media to one particular piece of news, and they said something along the lines of, “Everyone is just mean now. This far into lockdown, we’ve gone from trying to be polite to just being feral.”
It was one of those things that just flipped a switch in my brain. I wouldn’t call it an epiphany, because it’s not as if it translated immediately into any kind of concrete realization, but it’s been pinballing around inside my head ever since. It feels as if it touches on something true about the transformation we’ve all been undergoing since we first closed everything down and hid in our homes two years ago now.
(It’s two years! Well, almost We went into lockdown in March 2020, and here we are now. I can still remember people saying with all seriousness that lockdown was only going to last two weeks, and here we are now.)
I’m not sure that I buy that we’ve all gone feral — in fact, I’d pretty aggressively push back on that idea, to be honest — but the idea that we’re all somehow at our worst after two years of COVID is something that has just been stuck inside my head. Something that I’ve been struggling with over the past few months has been how to express how difficult it’s been to just… do the usual stuff in the halfway house between what used to be normal and the full lockdown of March 2020.
In theory, people are “returning to normal,” and businesses certainly would like us to believe that’s the case, but it’s clearly not; the dissonance between what we’ve been told and what’s actually happening has been wearing in ways that I never could have imagined, and I’m pretty sure it’s changed me in the same way that I’ve watched it changed other people around me.
Does that mean that we’re all worse for everything that’s happened? I genuinely don’t know. But even the hyperbole of talking about people being feral feels like it’s a step towards some essential truth, that we’re all different now, in ways we won’t properly appreciate for years yet.