After a full year of enforced social distancing, everyone’s “bubble” seems to have grown in circumference. And for many at this point, it’s not even out of fear of COVID – we are all just used to the extra elbow room.
As vaccines have started rolling out and the pandemic is trending in a favorable direction, things are finally getting back to normal. And that’s a good thing, right?
Sure, normal means no more masks, freedom to travel, no more weird regulations and no more social distancing. But do we really want to go back to less social distancing?
Picture this: It’s the fall of 2021. Campus is back to normal. You look across the classroom of your own department’s building and see the maskless smile of your friend. Your professor is asking about everyone’s summer, and you hear of all the travel plans that actually took place. A beautiful moment. And then… “Oh, sorry,” whispers the classmate who sits next to you as they reach for their backpack, elbowing your ribs in the process. How was sitting so close together ever normal?
As campus moves in the direction of normalcy, students already are starting to notice the closeness.
“The seats in my small group Chapel are really close together, and I’ve only sat next to people at least three seats apart for the whole year,” said Ellie Crawford, sophomore pre-med biology major from Tyler. “The other day I sat next to a friend, and it felt way too close – to where I was leaning away the whole time. It just felt so awkward.”
The Bean has also returned to its pre-COVID state, and tables once again host four and six chairs, rather than two and four. Although this is technically “normal,” the space feels much more crowded than it has been all year long.
“It feels like people are sitting on top of me when I go to the Bean,” said Anna Crawford, sophomore psychology major from Tyler. “It blows my mind that the Bean always used to be like this. It feels so cramped in here.”
Even off campus, people are starting to get too close for comfort.
“I’ve noticed when people are at the grocery store and they are checking out, they stand right behind me or right next to me,” said Zach Smith, sophomore graphic design major from Tyler. “It feels weird that people are standing less than six feet away, and it makes me uncomfortable.”
Although this social claustrophobia is a new phenomenon for some, others have always been fond of keeping their personal space. Shelby Spaulding, sophomore child and family services major from Austin, said she hates when people sit next to her to begin with, and now she just has a reason for it.