The pandemic has made many of us re-evaluate our relationships.

It’s taken more effort than ever to stay in touch with the people we care about. We’ve had to be more deliberate with texts, calls, FaceTimes, and one-friend-at-a-time daily walks.

This has brought some friendships closer and caused others to drift apart.

Lockdowns and logistics aren’t the only factors that changed our friendships during COVID. Opposing views around mask mandates and vaccinations may also have caused rifts between friends.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s normal for friends to come and go throughout our lives. But maintaining some connections is important to prevent loneliness.

We explore how COVID has impacted our social lives and the importance of friendships for our mental and physical wellbeing.

 

Taking Stock of our Friendships

If you left lockdown with fewer friends, you’re not alone. Research shows many of us saw our friendship groups shrink due to venue closures preventing in-person catchups, and pandemic stress causing us to only want to connect with the people we were closest with.

Restrictions on group activities meant we weren’t running into the acquaintances and ‘sometimes’ friends we see at social events but wouldn’t necessarily spend one-on-one time with.

We were prioritising the people we care most about, and ‘pruning’ (whether consciously or not) the friendships that were superficial or already dwindling. You know what they say: quality over quantity.

 

The Importance of Connection

A 2020 study showed phone calls (59%) and video chats (57%) were the most popular ways to stay in touch from a distance, while texting and smartphone apps (e.g. What’sApp and Facebook Messenger) came in at 38%.

But even with technology at our fingertips, some of us isolated ourselves during lockdowns. The survey showed 7% of people weren’t keeping in touch with loved ones at all.

“I’m withdrawing. Communicating through media is draining,” a respondent stated.

It’s no surprise that 45% of us reported increased feelings of loneliness since COVID in 2020.

Research shows loneliness is as bad for us as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. It’s a major risk factor for mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Loneliness is also associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

Human connection is a core need and losing that connection can significantly impact our wellbeing.

If you’re feeling lonely but would rather isolate yourself than maintain your friendships, it might be a sign your mental health needs attention. Talking to a counsellor might help. You can learn more about our counselling service here, or call 1300 364 277 to make an appointment.

Nervous about kickstarting your social life? You might find these tips helpful: Coping with Social Anxiety as Restrictions Ease