The Freedom of Being in Control: How imposed social isolation connotes the idea of loneliness

By Aadrika Gupta

How many times have you justified your behaviour by blaming certain personality traits, according to specific personality theories?

We human beings, unknowingly, are a figure of excuses and explanations. Wherever possible, even in the smallest of situations, we try to escape accountability to get a good night’s sleep. However, there are times we are stuck in situations where there is no escape. In those circumstances, do our personalities really define our actions?

Some people claim to be go-getters, while others claim to ‘go with the flow’. But is it really true? I don’t think so, for in the end, we all are a victim of our own decisions. These actions, irrespective of how small or big, are a consequence of our love with being in control. The idea that somebody dare dictate to us is nothing but an insult to our existence. So, getting caught in the midst of a pandemic is synonymous to being stuck in situations where you have no control and also see no escape. You’re confined to the four walls of your room, on the pretext of self-isolation and social-distancing. You’re ‘glued to your mobile phones’ thanks to living in the 21st century. You’re given all the means but choose to live in your head and let your thoughts guide your life.

For most of our lives, teaching has always been an in-person experience, but with the onset of a pandemic it changed to remote learning. While universities were drowned in the helter-skelter of making this transition successful and effective, we students rejoiced about not having to go for classes. Concurrently, the daily news gave us regular updates on the absurd speed at which the level of cases roses, coined new terms, implemented new measures, and soon all this merriment turned into a state of constant worrying.

To protect ourselves and others around us, we practised “social distancing” as a part of “community containment”. Social distancing can be defined as an activity in which individuals, who may have a chance of being infectious, reduce their interactions with other community members to stop the spread of a disease.[1] In Australia, there were strict rules when it came to stepping outside, especially in public premises. For instance, there was shutting down of businesses, education facilities, restaurants and recreational places, to name a few. Suddenly your home became everything and your only opportunity to mingle with the outside world was that of shopping for necessities – groceries or medicines. Moreover, there was an unexpected feeling of losing control. Nobody had anticipated the occurrence of a life-threatening pandemic, and it made our future seem like a blur.

Furthermore, social media was used for better engagement to the outside world and to feel part of a community. After looking at others’ success stories, people became obsessed with the thoughts of sudden transformation and self-actualisation. Before we realized, we were again in a race to outdo each other. But this was worse than before the pandemic because the arenas of competition had widened to skills like fitness and cooking, in addition to the existing ones regarding employment and education. This negative effect ended up becoming a burden and people got involved in a rat race.

Also, to add to people’s frustration, there were individuals vouching for disengagement from social media and introspection, while being on social media. This dissonance allowed loneliness to creep into our lives. To make things worse, our downtime was replaced by mindless scrolling on our devices, and the lack of physical social engagement got the better of us. Thus, the prescribed method of feeling part of a society became strangulating. Our aid for dealing with the pandemic turned into a weapon. Consequently, somewhere down the line, solitude got confused with loneliness.

While solitude is enjoying one’s own company, loneliness can be described as a subjective feeling after being pulled apart from others and experiencing distance from those who are close to us.[2] This mix-up leads to a bubble being formed around us, which is nothing but a composition of an unhealthy feeling of void.

So, where has this endless story led us to? We have unknowingly been pushed into a whirlwind of negative emotions, over which we had no control, and have ended up feeling more trapped than free. Irrespective of our personalities and response mechanism, we all love to be in control of ourselves, be it in terms of our emotions or actions. And as a young adult in the 21st century, freedom is necessary not only for our survival but also for us to have a better sense of self and to embrace our individuality.

[1] Wilder-Smith, A., Freedman, D.O., “Isolation, quarantine, social distancing and community containment: pivotal role for old-style public health measures in the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak’, Journal of Travel Medicine, Vol. 27, No. 2 (March 2020): 1-4, doi:10.1093/jtm/taaa020, accessed 3 November 2020 via <>

[2] Gupta, N., “From “normal” to “new normal” and from “social isolation” to “social bubbles”: The impact of COVID-19, Indian J Soc Psychiatry, Vol. 36 (2020): S1-5, accessed 4 November 2020