Letter: Some reassurance and love


Letter writer Quinn Vandenberg looks to a better, more smile-worthy future. 

Quinn Vandenberg

We are soon entering the second year of this pandemic. There is not much my inexperienced mind can say about current events that has not already been said, but I want to send you some reassurance and love. It is my belief that these kinds of positive mantras are put out into the world often but never to an excess.

The other day I was watching a news segment saying there are now 1-year-old toddlers who only know an outside world with face masks and hand sanitizer. Even in these times, babies are still being born; the world carries on. I have become hopeful for the day when those new people can walk down the street, hold their mother’s hand and look up at her face to see an unmasked smile full of maternal love.

That segment also had me thinking about how this had become the “new normal” for everyone — adults included. How are you meeting with your friends, grandparents, distant siblings? Probably FaceTime, Zoom, Instagram or whatever. I think this technology is wonderful. Those who make us feel less alone can have their presence felt with the press of a button.

However, it has become commonplace to complain about the present times and for good reason. This year has left most of us irritated or afraid. That is perfectly valid. But where are all these negative emotions and stressors coming from? We always seemed to use the internet near-ceaselessly, nothing has changed on that front. Now, to me, our use of the internet almost seems tainted.

Even before the pandemic, our society was rushing toward the new digital age. We could reconnect with long lost friends on social media and try to see one another through screens. Then, last March, we were forced to interact almost entirely through our computers. The trend toward digital connection was thrust on to us all at once. Restaurants, movie theaters, bars, dances, museums and concerts ceased to exist as we knew them: a necessary bummer.

I tend to think of digital connection as the diet soda of our souls. It tastes good and can even be helpful for those who require certain lifestyle changes, but it lacks a certain “caloric value.” For most of us, it does not totally satisfy. By this, I mean that while social media may be necessary in these times, it can never fully replace genuine face-to-face human interaction.

You probably already feel this way, and I doubt what I am saying is remotely controversial. Worst-case scenario, I am just another Luddite preaching about a specific shortcoming of new technology. I just want to say, for me, it took this pandemic to make myself a true believer in human gatherings. COVID-19, for better or for worse, taught me to value the Instagram heart a whole lot less and value a hug a whole lot more.

The great American writer, Kurt Vonnegut, once wrote, “What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible diseases of loneliness can be cured.”

For now, many of our old communities are wounded and have been put on internet-based life support. Once the pandemic ends, it will be on us to heal and nurture them. Hopefully, we will appreciate them more than we once had. Do not forget how awful we felt without them. 

Until then, wear a mask, socially distance when you can and, most importantly, call people and make them feel less alone. Loneliness truly is a most terrible disease. 

When this is behind us, I wish to see your face outside, and I hope there is something to make you smile.

Quinn Vandenberg is a sophomore in advertising.