The Covid-19 Pandemic has brought the whirring wheels of human life to a screeching halt. Cities like Mumbai and New York, which never sleep are eerily sleeping. In this time of crisis, when everyone is dogged with uncertainty, social media just cannot get enough of the hustle culture.
Did you know Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague? That Newton discovered gravity during quarantine. All of us must have come across posts or videos telling us to write a novel, or take up a new hobby, learn to code, or any another small hustle. Such posts guilting us to be productive garner thousands of likes and retweets. One such tweet on Twitter by Writer Rosanne Cash, which reads, “Just a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear.”
The above tweet was retweeted 52,000 times, got 245,000 likes and 3000 replies. It is important to ask why such posts become so popular among people. It maybe because of our desperate desire for normalcy and stability in a time where we have been uprooted from our normal routines to a land of uncertainty where we do not know what may happen next. In an article titled “Why are young people pretending to love work?” in the New York Times, Erin Griffith wrote, “Never once at the start of my workweek – not in my morning coffee shop line; not in my crowded subway commute; not as I began my bottomless inbox slog – have I paused, looked to the heavens and whispered #ThankGodIt’sMonday.”
The extra time in our hands is a silver lining during a time of utter chaos and apprehension. However, writing a novel in 21 days is not a realistic way to deal with this. Those who sell this idea of making the most of this free time forget or choose to ignore the fact that although the novel corona virus attacks our physical health, the corona-pandemic induced quarantine can take a toll on one’s mental well-being. Locked in our homes, with nothing much to do, social media seems to be our only refuge. While scrolling through your Instagram feed, it is very likely that you will come across an “inspirational” quote if not begging then condescending you for staying in bed and watching Netflix. You end up falling into this loop of guilt for not being productive and letting time slip by. Well, quit social media for some time to escape this barrage, social detox as they call it. However, the question is, “For how long?” Social media is currently the only way to interact with friends and families. Hence, quitting social media is a hard bargain, which we cannot afford.
In a country, where mental health disorders are a stigma, the hustle culture makes matters worse. Especially for those suffering with clinical disorders such as anxiety, depression, PTSD and the likes. In a time, when even a neurotypical person finds himself grappling with anxiety, we can only think how it must be for someone clinically diagnosed with anxiety. The hustle culture, which has been there before the pandemic started, has managed to show its head even in an international crisis. Many blame capitalism for rearing it, Hannah Arendt, in Crises of the Republic wrote, “…the alternative between capitalism and socialism is false – not because neither exists anywhere in its pure state anyhow, but because we have here twins, each wearing a different hat.” Nonetheless, what we do for a living forms a significant part of our self, so much so that we do not know how to do nothing. However, that does not mean we should spend the whole day in our beds.
Tim Marcin in an article on Mashable, rightly said, “If you find some time to be productive, that’s awesome! Just don’t compare yourself to Shakespeare.” These trying times demand that we take care of our health – both physical and emotional. The extra time can be used to do pending tasks and pursue a hobby for which you never had time. At the same time, it is okay, to feel anxious and despondent. It is important to acknowledge your emotions or mental state during that time and take a day off instead of slogging hard, just because some one on internet thought you should do so.
Maryam Ahmed is a student pursuing English Honors from Jamia Millia Islamia.