Hannah R Marston1 & Deborah J. Morgan2
1Health and Wellbeing Strategic Research Area, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA. Hannah.Marston@open.ac.uk
2Centre for Innovative Ageing, Swansea University, SA2 8PP. Morgan.D.J@Swansea.ac.uk
A year ago we were on the countdown to Brexit, while we were clinking our glasses, supping our pints and possibly giving our loved ones and interests a cheeky snog under the mistletoe. This was our main worry and concern. But as noted by Marston, Musselwhite & Hadley (2020) this was not to be – there was a juggernaut hurtling towards us at a speed that was incomprehensible – the Coronavirus, Covid-19, or the pandemic; all terms which have been used and are interchangeable throughout our lives, writings, and speeches.
January 2021 – the UK is now experiencing Lockdown 3.0, Christmas and New Year passed by, and as previously discussed by Marston & Morgan (2020) who explored the notions of the pending annual festivities of Christmas, while experiencing a 2nd lockdown and how social, emotional, sexual and intimate connections maybe a cause for thought for many citizens, especially those who are physically separated from their partners, as well as those who use technology such as dating apps as a way of ‘connecting’ with someone, because they are lonely.
This thought piece (Marston & Morgan, 2020) explored the notion of a digital Christmas for many, and for some citizens, who were separated from their families and loved ones for the first time, after making the choice to keep themselves and vulnerable parents safe, and therefore, this practical decision resulted in them spending Christmas day on their own.
Leading up to Christmas, we saw through media channels (Bedford, 2020) the notions of using technology as a way of bridging that separation, and instead of resting on the sofa after eating the turkey and trimmings and watching a movie; instead alternative approaches were suggested by Bedford (2020) by using a laptop to connect and stream a movie together. However, we should not be ignorant and ignore the fact that for many people, while they may have been following guidance, the need to see family on Christmas to be together in the same physical space will have been greater.
Government guidance was changing constantly throughout December and for some areas of England, they woke up to Boxing day in Tier 4, whereas for others, they had been placed into Tier 4 a week or so earlier, after only experiencing a jump from Tier 2 to Tier 3 and 12-24hrs later because of rising numbers were plunged into Tier 4, with little notice (ITV, 2020). For many areas of the UK, some citizens chose to spend Christmas Day with loved ones and friends. Yet as we enter the third week of the new year, coupled with 10-months into a global pandemic, the UK is currently experiencing its 3rd wave of the pandemic with 91,470 deaths, and 3.47 million cases (2021).
However, back in the autumn of 2020 there was a glimmer of hope, a flicker of candles with the announcement of the Pfizer/BioNTech (Stone, 2021) vaccine been the first past the post. For many people, this news will have offered some comfort, and as we edged closer towards the start of a New Year, Father Christmas wasn’t just delivering gifts via Royal Mail, but the Nation were informed of more positive news with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine showing positive results from their respective trials. Both vaccines were signed off by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) (University of Oxford, 2020) at different times. This news afforded the Nation, with an uplift, the notion that some form of normality in a post-pandemic society was and is on the horizon, the light flickering at the end of the tunnel.
As we are hurtling towards the end of the first month of 2021 citizens across the UK, listening to and adhering to respective Nations Covid guidance (BBC News, 2021a), with various reviews and stipulations occurring at different times depending upon the Nation (BBC News, 2021b; BBC News, 2021c; Black, Young, McHugh, 2021) it is becoming clearer that a new normality is not close, but maybe we will see an easing of restrictions at Easter (Dalton, 2020).
However, we cannot get too excited because for many people across all age groups, they are continuing to suffer from loneliness and social isolation. The feeling of loneliness does not just affect older adults but also those in younger age cohorts, and with Easter peeking around the corner; the next major opportunity for families and friends to come together especially in a pre-pandemic society; who would normally be spending time together and possibly going on holiday. But yet, we are living in a pandemic, and we are not familiar with what a post-pandemic society will look like. Currently, we don’t know what narratives will be shared across the various media channels regarding the easing of restrictions, and as we’ve experienced a second and third lockdown in winter coupled with (for many) alternative celebrations for Christmas, should we really be getting excited at this prospect of escapism at Easter? One thing we can be sure of and at least start to rejoice is knowing that the clocks go forward on the 28th March 2021 (RMG, 2021). Just like in 2020, when we were in the first lockdown, and extremely fortunate with the weather, we were able to sit outside in our gardens (for those fortunate enough to have this space), take walks and exercise into the evenings, and maybe for many lighten and lift our moods. Unfortunately, we know what it is like to be in lockdown when the clocks go back, we are currently living it – it’s grim.
In a previous post by Marston & Morgan (2020), they discussed the use and impact of technology surrounding a digital Christmas and dating apps as a means of facilitating emotional, sexual and intimate connections. With Easter on the horizon, for those who are using dating apps and who may have made a connection during the 2nd and 3rd lockdowns, it is possible that physically meeting up with this person or persons will be arranged. As previously seen in the easing of restrictions in the summer of 2020, citizens met up in parks, their back gardens, public spaces (e.g., restaurants, pubs etc.). Could the same happen again this year? Maybe for those who are connecting with each other via dating apps, who have not been mixing with other people, will choose to have a first date in the summer sunshine or cook dinner for each other.
Preliminary data from an online survey rolled out in December 2020 from the project ‘COVID-19: Dating Apps, Social Connections, Loneliness & Mental Health’ is showing the importance of dating app use during previous lockdowns as a coping mechanism for loneliness and social isolation, coupled with greater understanding of the motivations for using dating apps in conjunction with the lack of or limited emotional, physical, sexual and intimate connections on citizens.
The online survey is still open for users of dating apps to complete and we are currently recruiting 10 participants to take part in an online, face-to-face (recorded) interview, to discuss their experiences of dating apps during the pandemic.
At present, we can only hope our respective environments and society improves, and the more vaccinations are given, the greater the opportunities we can commence connecting with each other.
BBC News (2021a). Covid: What are the UK’s lockdown rules and when will they end? BBC News 19th January 2021. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-52530518. Accessed 20th January 2021.
BBC News (2021b). Covid: Not much room for lockdown changes, Wales’ first minister warns. BBC News Wales, 3rd January 2021. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-55523447. Accessed 20th January 2021.
BBC News (2021c). Covid in Scotland: Schools to stay closed as lockdown extended. BBC News Scotland, 19th January 2021. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-55718133. Accessed 20th January 2021.
Bedford., T. (2020). How to use technology to connect with family on Christmas Day 2020. Techradar, retrieved from How to use technology to connect with family on Christmas Day 2020 | TechRadar. Accessed 20th January 2021.
Black, R., Young, D., & McHugh, M. (2021). ‘Highly unlikely’ NI lockdown restrictions will be eased after six weeks – Swann. Belfast Telegrah, 15th January, 2021. Retrieved from https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/highly-unlikely-ni-lockdown-restrictions-will-be-eased-after-six-weeks-swann-39973986.html. Accessed 20th January 2021.
COVID-19: Dating Apps, Social Connections, Loneliness, & Mental Health. Research Project, Health and Wellbeing Strategic Research Area. The Open University, Swansea University, Manchester Metropolitan University. Available from https://healthwellbeing.kmi.open.ac.uk/covid-19/sex-social-connection-on-a-monday/. Accessed 20th January 2021
Dalton, J. (2020). Coronavirus: Life ‘should be better by Easter’, chief medical officer told Boris Johnson. Independent, 30th December 2020. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/coronavirus-vaccine-easter-boris-johnson-chris-whitty-b1780554.html. Accessed 20th January 2020.
ITV. (2020). Covid: What are the new Tier 4 rules for London and England and how will it change Christmas? 20th December 2020. Retrieved from Covid: What are the new Tier 4 rules for London and south east England and how will it change Christmas?. Accessed 20th January 2021.
Marston, H.R., & Morgan, D.J. (2020). Lockdown 2.0: Gunpowder Plot, Digital Christmas, Sex and Relationships. Ageing Issues, 2nd November 2020, British Society of Gerontology. Retrieved from Lockdown 2.0: Gunpowder Plot, Digital Christmas, Sex and Relationships. Accessed 20th January 2021.
Marston, H.R., Musselwhite, C., & Hadley, R. (2020). COVID-19 vs Social Isolation: the Impact Technology can have on Communities, Social Connections and Citizens. Ageing Issues, 18th March 2020, British Society of Gerontology. Retrieved from COVID-19 vs Social Isolation: the Impact Technology can have on Communities, Social Connections and Citizens. Accessed 20th January 2021.
RMG. (2021). When do the clocks go forward in 2021? Retrieved from https://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/explore/when-do-clocks-go-forward#:~:text=In%20spring%202021%20the%20clocks,British%20Summer%20Time%20(BST). Accessed 20th January 2021.
Stone, M. (2021). COVID-19: ‘Real-world’ analysis of coronavirus vaccine in Israel raises questions bout UK strategy. Sky News, 20th January 2021. Retrieved from COVID-19: ‘Real-world’ analysis of coronavirus vaccine in Israel raises questions about UK strategy. Accessed 20th January 2021.
University of Oxford. (2020). University of Oxford welcomes regulatory authorisation of coronavirus vaccine. 30th December 2020. Retrieved from University of Oxford welcomes regulatory authorisation of coronavirus vaccine | Research | University of Oxford. Accessed 21st January 2021