How quarantine has completely destroyed my socialization skills

Three stories of how more alone time leads to decreased aptitude in shared conversations

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ILLUSTRATION: Tiffany Chan / The Peak

By: Madeleine Chan, Kyla Dowling, and Nathan Tok

I can’t leave people on read IRL? (Madeleine)

I think I realized that human interaction isn’t for me anymore when I said “LOL” out loud, forgetting that, no, I’m not reacting to yet another pandemic meme that my aunt sent me. When I do interact with people, it’s like I can feel a loading sign on my forehead, making my words come out like a professor’s on a low-quality, buffering BB Collaborate video.

I had a five-minute, socially-distanced conversation with a friend and I had to keep reminding myself to talk and continue the conversation. It wasn’t a text message exchange where I could respond hours later, or with a quick double-tapped heart. I couldn’t even mute the extraneous noise that my coat seemed to make when I moved my arms, or turn off my camera to preserve the illusion that I’m an entity devoid of corporeal presence.

How will I cope when I can’t narcissistically check my appearance in the Narcissus lake that is my Zoom square whenever I’m talking to someone? It’s really a miracle that I know to reply with a clipped “good” when asked how I am nowadays.

My social ability is like my six-year-old iPhone 6S: still able to function, but just slow and glitchy enough that I should probably get a new one. But if Apple keeps pumping out thousand-dollar bricks of waste, I probably won’t be upgrading anytime soon. 

I wish my social skills were what the cat dragged in (Kyla)

I didn’t think my socialization skills had deteriorated in quarantine until I was trying to get my mother’s attention. She wouldn’t respond to me while on her phone, engaging with her seven followers on Twitter. She was ignoring my attempts to ask if she was making dinner or if I would have to sustain myself on Starbucks and ramen. 

It was in that moment I realized: she wouldn’t respond to me speaking to her, but you know what she would respond to? Our cat headbutting her. I bonked my forehead against her shoulder three times, and finally, she paid attention to me. That was it, I thought. If I needed her attention, I would resort to acting like her actual favourite child. 

A few nights later while on the phone with my boyfriend at 3 a.m. (I refuse to participate in a heterosexual relationship outside of the witching hour), I proved how severe my quarantine-induced catgirl existence was — and I’m not talking about the fun TikTok catgirls in maid costumes. When he yawned, I pitched my voice high and went “awww, bIg yAWn!” in response. That was the catalyst. That was when I decided to embrace it. 

Now, I alternate between meowing at my mother and petting her hair. My one reprieve from this? Having lengthy conversations in the English language with my cat. I’m pretty sure she understands me, and if she doesn’t? I guess I’ll try meowing at her, but I’m not sure how my accent will be. Will she be offended? 

My talking skills are in a galaxy far, far away (Nathan)

Being in quarantine means a lot of time at home streaming TV. I’ve been watching The Mandalorian. It’s great. Fantastic catchphrases. I also wish I had a huge bounty hunter protecting me at all times.

Recently, at a fast food place, I ordered the cheapest burger (The Peak doesn’t pay me enough) with some grilled onions. The staff member serving me must have been new because they said that didn’t exist on their menu. I insisted I had always gotten free grilled onions on my burger. Finally, another staff member came up to us asking what was wrong. After my server told him, he said that we were both right and wrong. Grilled onions were an option but they ran out earlier until just now, as they got a delivery. 

“YES!” I exclaimed, pumping my fist in victory with my mask spit smearing on my chin. “Young fool, you have paid the price for your lack of vision!” I quoted. “One star!” The whole restaurant turned to look at me. I was grateful for my mask that hid the now very red bottom half of my face. 

He keyed in the order and left so my server and I were both standing six feet apart, awkwardly looking at each other. I thought it would be weird to start talking after having a heated confrontation over onions and yelling, but I felt I had to say something. I just mumbled, “this is the way” as I got my burger with my precious grilled onions. 

The server nodded back. “I have spoken.” Well, I wish they had.