Watching a father kicking a ball around the park one day with his children, Sydneysider Georgina Barratt-See said she envied the “natural community” families had more than ever due to current NSW lockdown restrictions. But there are also some silver-lining and simple ways to support your single friends right now.
Living alone in one of Sydney’s local government areas of concern, Ms Barratt-See, 46, told Hope 103.2 that “as a single, you tend to need to go out a lot more”.
“If you’re living alone, you need to do more outside the home in order to get that social connection and community.
“When everything stops, the different things that you do to have that connection, that really gets lost because you’re not living with people, you’re not talking with anyone.”
All social interactions need to be planned
She currently works at the University of Technology, Sydney, and – like most Sydney residents – is working from home and said she is missing the unplanned conversations that happen around the office.
“It’s that loneliness of not having those kinds of incidental conversations; everything has to be arranged and organised and Zoomed,” Ms Barratt-See said.
“If I don’t have any Zoom meeting in a day, I might not actually physically talk to a single person at all.”
Gavin Walker, 25, has also been frustrated at the lack of social interactions.
“There’s no one really to talk to unless you arrange a time to go on Zoom, but there’s also nothing spontaneous,” he told Hope 103.2
The Bible college student currently lives with a housemate, but rarely sees him because his housemate works long hours.
“If I don’t have any Zoom meeting in a day, I might not actually physically talk to a single person at all,” – Georgina Barratt-See
Too much “me” time
Rob Hill, 28, lawyer, also lives by himself. He has enjoyed having more time to himself during lockdown but sometimes that has become too much.
“It’s nice to have a bit more of my own time, I really enjoy personal time and spending time by myself, but at the same time it’s a lot,” he told Hope 103.2.
“I think for single people, we have needs to interact and connect with people, I think that’s the main unique challenge for people who are single and living by themselves.”
Craving physical touch
Nadine*, 49, is single and lives by herself. She said she was doing OK at the beginning of lockdown but began to struggle after a few weeks.
“Around the fifth week, I really felt that not having touched people – no hugs, no visits – that was beginning to have a greater effect on me,” she said.
“I still had other challenges but I did get to a point where it was like ‘I just need a hug’.”
Ms Barratt-See also expressed that she was missing physical touch.
“Sometimes I just want to walk up to people and touch them… It’s just this sense of can someone please give me a hug?”
“I still had other challenges but I did get to a point where it was like ‘I just need a hug’,” – Nadine
Singles bubble too restrictive
When the NSW Government introduced the “singles bubble” in July, Ms Barratt-See was really happy.
The singles bubble allows a person living alone to have a nominated visitor that they can socialise with at their place of residence.
The nominated person can only be one person and can’t be the nominated visitor for someone else. They must live within 5km and they are allowed to visit more than once.
“I have a friend who comes over twice a week and she gives me hugs and gives me that sense of connection and I have someone in my home, so the bubble’s been huge and really helpful,” Ms Barratt-See said.
Nadine has not been able to take advantage of the singles bubble because she doesn’t have anyone within 5km of her but thinks it could be helpful.
“I think it would give a little bit of an outlet for you. I mean it doesn’t provide a full thing but during lockdown we’re not getting a full family feel,” she said.
Mr Hill, however, thinks the bubble is too restrictive.
“The singles bubble is all well and good but most single people don’t just have one person that they get their social needs from,” he said.
“It’s a concession but it’s not a huge concession.”
“The singles bubble is all well and good but most single people don’t just have one person that they get their social needs from,” – Rob Hill
Lessons learnt: last year comparison
The current lockdown has been a lot harder for Ms Barratt-See than last year’s lockdown.
“Everybody is just getting that sense that we thought we were going to be OK and we started to hope again and now it’s gone,” she said.
“Personally, for me it feels endless; every day it feels like Groundhog Day, every day I get up and do the same thing.”
Last year, Mr Hill temporarily moved back in with his parents. While he enjoyed spending more time with family, it was also trialling.
“It can be quite challenging living with your family all the time and being locked down with them as well – it really puts a lot of pressure on those relationships,” he said.
“I find it to be a lot better living by myself this time around.”
“It feels endless; every day it feels like Groundhog Day, every day I get up and do the same thing,” – Georgina Barratt-See
Apart from the tighter restrictions, Nadine thinks the current lockdown is very similar to last year’s lockdown and has been able to reflect on things she learnt from God last year.
“I’ve just had so much opportunity to really ground myself and really practice the love of God and presence of God,” she said.
“And actually, just learning that in the midst of really dark times that I can know that He’s with me.”
“I’ve just had so much opportunity to really ground myself and really practice the love of God and presence of God,” – Nadine
Mr Walker has also learnt from last year’s lockdown.
“Last year, I didn’t really have much in the way of support,” he said.
“I was spending a lot of time dealing with being alone, which heavily affected me.”
He was also very hesitant of new technology.
“I’ve got no hesitations about jumping on Zoom to talk with friends and now I’m leading a kids and youth [group] every Friday,” he said.
When it comes to supporting singles, Mr Hill said it would be helpful to check in with them.
“I think that single people are the ones who are reaching out a lot more because we don’t have someone at home to chat to about random stuff, we have to actually go out and engage with people,” he said.
“I think even if it’s just a regular once-a-week call, it can be really helpful because it removes the energy to have to initiate those interactions.”
People should follow through when making plans with a single person.
Mr Walker also agrees that check ins are good.
“Some will be more lonely than others; some people, like me, are more content with being single,” he said.
“But there are some people that struggle with being single, regardless of lockdown, and they might not be OK.”
“Single people are the ones who are reaching out a lot more because we don’t have someone at home to chat,” – Rob Hill
Ms Barratt-See said people should follow through when making plans with a single person.
“If you plan something with a single person, say it’s a Zoom or an event, and then it doesn’t happen, that can be really hard,” she said.
“I think what happens sometimes is people in families don’t realise that maybe for that single person that’s the only social interaction they’re having that day.”
Benefits of being single
Although singles are facing their own challenges during lockdown, it’s not all bad.
“I don’t think singles have it as hard as people with kids [and] who work from home,” Ms Barratt-See said.
“I have really appreciated that I don’t have to wear headphones in my house because there’s nobody making noise.
“And I can sit in the dining or the kitchen area and not have to worry about somebody needing that space.”
*Name has been changed