Your social bubble is popped, and here’s why

Illustration by Anna Weimholt

Since February, students have been permitted to develop a “social bubble.” These bubbles are meant to include individuals around whom you do not always have to wear your mask. According to the Campus Reopening Team, your social bubble should include no more than five people, which means you also have to coordinate who enters your sacred bubble with your roommates.

There are several reasons why this does not work and can hardly be followed on campus at the moment. Every time you enter Stav hall and take off your mask for a meal, you are essentially adding dozens of people to your bubble. The proximity of the tables and chairs, though modified to attempt to aid with social distancing, is definitely not adequate enough to not be breathing in other peoples’ air. The same thing happens when you eat and drink at the Cage. When you take off your mask to brush your teeth in a public bathroom, you and your sink buddy are basically in each other’s bubbles. I don’t state this to cause campus-wide panic, but simply to observe that it is extraordinarily difficult to actually maintain a concrete social bubble of five individuals.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to keep our social interactions limited, especially instances where we don’t wear masks. We should all be practicing common sense and respect our fellow students, faculty and staff. However, to think that you truly are limiting yourself to just five social interactions on a weekly basis is silly. Should you blame yourself for this? Of course not. But we have to be realistic. Your social bubble, no matter how tight you think it is, probably isn’t just five people.

So, how can we combat the anxiety that comes with this realization? To that I have a few answers. The first is to reassess your social bubble, especially if you feel it has expanded beyond your original plans. Though it is difficult, it is possible to see fewer people in an unmasked situation, despite the issues with Stav, the Cage and the bathrooms. Having clear, open conversations with those you spend time with is essential to avoid any hurt feelings, especially if you are or know someone who is high-risk.

If you know your social bubble is where you want it, great! I know lots of students have been vaccinated, and I truly don’t believe people are purposely expanding their social bubbles to endanger others. As I said before, having a larger social bubble is nearly inevitable. However, it is on you to be ready to explain yourself and your actions if you choose to expand it further.

Many of our social bubbles have been “popped,” and there’s no one person to blame. Our cases have been low, and people are itching to interact. At the end of the day, you can only truly control your own actions, so take the steps you think are necessary, and try not to pop anyone’s bubble!


lindah2@stolaf.edu

Mallory Lindahl ’21 is from Wayzata, MN.

Her majors are English and music.