In the last two weeks since I have been isolating the amount of times I have cracked a genuine smile can be counted on one hand: there was the time a friend started referring to her boyfriend as her ‘intern’ to make working from home more interesting; the Facetime pub quiz that another friend conducted in a multitude of simultaneously awful and hilarious accents; and all the times I have been tagged in the most recent Instagram chainmail trend. I’m aware the latter seems as if it doesn’t belong on this list – “what a strange source of joy, it seems so impersonal!”, I hear you say – but hear me out.
There’s the one where you have to post a picture of yourself as a child, the one where you have to post an embarrassing picture and keep it up for at least 24 hours, the one where you have to do push-ups, quarantine bingo and the 30-day song challenge. Each one, complete with their own rules, must be forwarded on to other friends in order to keep the chain going. This kind of challenge – one that is spread on Instagram Stories and relies on the inclusion of other people to survive – will normally rarely make more than a couple of rounds on anyone’s feed before it ceases to exist, falling into the pits of forgotten (or ignored) tags and shares. The challenges of the past couple of weeks, however, have engaged everyone – people who I’ve never seen post a story before are suddenly posting daily updates of their favourite songs, calling out to the world that “THIS SONG MAKES ME HAPPY”, unaware as to whether anybody cares or not. These posts, perhaps originally inspired by boredom or loneliness, are bringing people together. I don’t mean this in a metaphorical “social media brings people together” way, I mean it in a figurative it-forces-people-to-talk way. Through posting various challenges I have re-connected with old friends, old loves, solidified connections with people who were previously defined as acquaintances and had a good laugh whilst doing it.
Of course, no one can ever have unapologetic fun without someone else telling them that their source of fun is ridiculous. For every person who has enjoyed taking part in one of these harmless trends, there is a person who feels as if it is their right to mock them, to diminish their joy. I am not exempt from this, either, I have rudely and audaciously voiced my opinion that clapping for the NHS is pointless and futile, achieving nothing other than patting the back of the partaker rather than doing something that will help the situation at hand. I realised, though, that right now, times are tough. People feel helpless and upset; simultaneously run down and overwhelmed, constantly teetering on the brink of breakdown. If spending time to look through your childhood photo albums, choose the song that makes you feel most at home or clapping for people that you don’t know but are so thankful for is going to bring you the happiness that you are currently unable to find elsewhere, why would we choose to stand in the way of that?
The thing is, happiness is abstract and entirely unfathomable. It is so intangible in its nature that it’s difficult to define and sometimes even harder to find; it’s restless and relentless, simultaneously minute and gargantuan. It’s in love, it’s that feeling when you get to hug your Grandma, it’s spending evenings with your friends. Within the last three weeks we have all experienced a colossal upheaval of everything we know, and it seems that all we know now is that nothing is certain. It’s hard to find happiness when a pandemic-sized roadblock stands between you and your normality, but having to create a new normal doesn’t mean it has to be miserable. Happiness is organising Facetime activities with your friends. It’s reconnecting with old friends and making new ones because of a silly Instagram trend. It’s vibrating through your body when you stand outside and clap your hands for the strangers that are doing their all to help us return to normalcy. It may be harder to find, yes, but it is still there.