Bubble Wrap

Once upon a time, bubbles—especially social media ones—had negative connotations of wilful self-isolation, inbred ideas, and easy complacency. Bubbles produce only echo chambers, it was charged, mixed-metaphorically. The students at my New York private school, in discussions about the world, would remind each other that they lived in a New York bubble, a private-school bubble. The point was to burst the bubble, not to live inside one.

The pandemic, which has changed so many things, has changed our language too. In addition to giving us new expressions such as “social distancing” and “flattening the curve,” it has changed the meanings of old standbys. Now that the rate of infection is going down in some places, people are talking cautiously of getting together in “social bubbles,” with extended family or close friends who could be trusted to keep themselves and others safe. Without testing for the virus, such bubbles are made with the tensile material of faith in another person’s word. The risks are considered worth taking after months of self-quarantine.

My boyfriend and I have invited a couple of neighbors to a socially responsible picnic in our nearby park this weekend. He has found a nice corner of the park where we will be away from everyone else. He will mark out seats so that we are all all six feet apart. We will bring our own food. But what is a picnic if we don’t share food? And so we had a discussion, which I predict will recur until the weekend, about whether it is safe enough to share some kinds of food. How about fried chicken bought directly from our favorite Kennedy Fried Chicken outlet? Surely, individually wrapped cookies would be fine?

Such negotiations with self and others have become constant during this pandemic. How much risk is too much risk? How much trust is foolhardy? Society is, of course, a vast social bubble. To live in society is to take risks all the time. Most of the time we are not even aware of putting our lives in the hands of others, the bus driver, the financial adviser, the schoolteacher. If nothing else, COVID-19 has made us acutely aware of the intrinsic risks and rewards of social relations. May we find the rewards outweighing the risks as we expand our own “social bubble” to include others.

 

Jee Leong Koh

 

 

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2 Responses to “Bubble Wrap”

  • Tan Kim Lan:

    @Jee Leong Koh

    Can I join in? Which park?
    Also looking for a ‘wife’. Male of course.

    Jee Leong Koh:
    My boyfriend and I have invited a couple of neighbors to a socially responsible picnic in our nearby park this weekend.

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  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    Joe, we live in the OPEN and they (AristoCrap Elites) “LIVE” in a BUBBLE of “EVIL”…and NOTE: LIVE is Life and EVIL the reverse of LIVE is just that pure evil!!!

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