‘U Ok?' Virus-Era Friendships Can Be Both Crucial & Fraught
Techlife News|May 02, 2020
A single mother hunkering down at home with a teenage daughter, Sharon Litwin sees her friends, like most people these days, only virtually. Even so, they’ve been a crucial lifeline.

“Sometimes I just need to have a conversation with adults,” she says. “And sometimes I just need to cry, which I really don’t want to do in front of my daughter.” Two of Litwin’s friends, especially, have become valued sounding boards in daily calls she coordinates with her walks outside.

But then there are friends she’s tried to check on — good friends — who haven’t answered. She doesn’t know what that means. Are they struggling? Are they or a loved one sick? Or are they afraid SHE is sick or struggling and don’t want to add to her stress? “I don’t know what the message is,” says Litwin, 45, of Teaneck, New Jersey. “I just worry about everybody.”

As the world has changed in overwhelming ways since the coronavirus era took hold, the complicated ripple effects have been well documented in terms of family life, but less so with friendships. Yet these relationships, too, were key to our previous lives. And they, too, are complicated — especially now that virtually all communication is, well, virtual.

The challenges can be as simple as learning how to navigate a relationship via FaceTime (am I calling too much, or too little?) or as deep as reevaluating who one’s best friends are, and what one needs or expects of them.

There have been surprises both welcome and not.

There’s the friend you haven’t seen in months who pops up to offer a much-needed item — a thermometer for your kid, a load of groceries when you can’t get out. There’s the neighbor three floors up whom you hardly knew before, who reaches out to say “I’m here if you need me.” There’s that person you rarely got to see in normal times, but suddenly has become a soothing voice helping you navigate the unknown.

Then there’s the friend who seems callous or focused on trivial matters — someone you’d rather just not be speaking to right now.

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