Adapting to the times: Isolation is changing the way we communicate

Kieran Ryan. Photo supplied.
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Australians who are social distancing are finding novel ways of communicating with friends and family. Julia Clugston reports.

Australians are learning new methods of communicating while observing government social distancing measures.

Stawell’s Kieran Ryan, 32, found a love of sending postcards emerged as a welcome reprieve from too much screen time.

Mr Ryan, who works for the Movember Foundation, tested positive to COVID-19 after he returned home from New York on March 15.

His isolation within his Halls Gap property’s boundary extended beyond the mandatory minimum 14 days when his fever persisted.  

“You’re not allowed to leave from the moment you return home from being tested and you need to be clear of a fever for 72 hours after that. I still had that fever which meant I was in isolation a little longer.”

During that time, Mr Ryan was contacted by Horsham’s COVID-19 Assessment Clinic every day, as well as the Department of Health every second day, and these phone calls lasted “for an hour each time”.

He said the nurses who rang him from either place to check in were lovely and “we built a relationship during these phone calls”.

As much as he appreciated the daily calls from nurses and his family, the illness made him exhausted and lethargic.  

“I just needed to tell them I was okay and then go be with my own thoughts and sleep,” he said.

After Mr Ryan recovered from Covid-19, he was sick of communicating with friends via online screens and has started to use postcards instead. “I realised my handwriting wasn’t that great but the thought behind it is really nice.”

“It has been interesting to engage with that and how this little thing in the letter box can bring joy.”

James Fetherstonhaugh, 20, lives alone at his Swinburne University on-campus residence and is finding that living alone is changing the way he talks to others.

James Fetherstonhaugh. Photo supplied.

When talking on the phone to his parents, Mr Fetherstonhaugh found that his sentences were “wonky and curved” and that he kept backtracking over what he was saying so it didn’t make sense.

“I am by myself in this apartment, I talk to myself, watch TV by myself, it is becoming the norm for me.”

Mr Fetherstonhaugh’s roommate went back to their hometown when Swinburne transitioned classes to an online format.

“I spent all of summer alone in this apartment, and then I had a roommate for a short time and then I didn’t. So, things have backtracked to how they were over summer, which is pretty lonely.”

Mr Fetherstonhaugh maintains a routine every day to keep himself sane.

“I make myself four good meals a day or three meals and snacks, I try to not get up too late, I clean the apartment every day – which makes the day seem normal.”

He is looking forward when isolation is over so he can talk to people normally again and hopes that everyone else will want to talk after spending so much time alone.

Both men reiterated how important conversation is and to check in with your friends.

“Movember is challenging people to do a five-minute challenge which is to call your friend and check in with them. It is amazing the power this has on you as well as your friend,” Mr Ryan said.  

Photo courtesy Movember 5-a-day challenge.

He also hopes “people will stop thinking about themselves and think about we as a community and if they can do that with kindness I think we’re going to come out of this okay.”

The Movember Foundation raises money and awareness for men’s mental health. Mr Ryan got involved after running 100km from Dunkeld to Stawell to raise money for the organisation after two of his friends took their own lives for mental health reasons.

“It wasn’t until I was hiking the Kokoda trail with Kurt Fearnley, who is a Paralympian, and he said, ‘Mate you seem pretty passionate about Movember, why don’t you see if you can work there?’.”