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Feeling Left Out Of A Pandemic Bubble? 

Published: September 15, 2020 | Last Updated: September 2, 2022 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading
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Are you part of a pandemic bubble? Know someone else who is?

As the pandemic lingers on with no definite end date in sight, people are finding new ways to connect together in person, both for social reasons and practical ones. One outgrowth of the pandemic has been “bubbles” or “pods,” which are exclusive circles of people who agree on purpose, membership and health and safety rules governing the group.

Types of pandemic bubbles and pods

Here are a few examples or various types of pandemic-fueled bubbles:

Coronavirus bubbles

Friends are creating coronavirus bubbles (also called quarantine bubbles or social pods) to ward off the isolation of being socially distant from friends, neighbors, colleagues and sometimes, even family. Similar to other types of pods, involvement in these bubbles demands adherence to rules established by the group. For example, to mitigate infection, each individual must agree to minimize the time they spend in public places, limit their social interactions with others outside the bubble, and avoid other risky behaviors. This requires a high degree of trust and allows members to socialize without social distancing measures. 

Learning pods

Parents with school-age kids who are learning remotely are forming learning pods (also called pandemic pods or micro-schools) so children have the opportunity to learn and safely socialize with peers. The families may hire a teacher or collaborate on a plan for homeschooling. These arrangements alleviate the burden of education and child care from any one family.

Travel pods

Travelers—sometimes an extended family, two families, a few couples, or a group of single friends—are forming travel pods to achieve some semblance of a group vacation. This may entail renting a house with a pool (to limit exposure to people outside the pod and maintain control over meals, entertainment, etc.).

All of these efforts attempt to balance health and safety with some semblance of what once were normal social activities.

Left out of the pandemic bubble: Assuaging the hurt

Thinking of joining a pandemic bubble?

The safest thing to do is stay home

Of course, some people choose not to affiliate with other people very much during the pandemic; they may be highly risk-averse or simply have less need to be with others. Others may have heard the buzz about the bubbles in their neighborhood but don’t know of any first-hand. But for those craving companionship and hoping to be part of a safe group and knowing they were excluded, it can feel rotten to know they weren’t invited to join. 

How can someone assuage the hurt? 

Recognize that most pods or bubbles are organic, in that they seem to evolve naturally among people who already know and trust each other. For example, a learning pod might include kids who live close by and routinely play together (before the pandemic); they may have visited each other’s homes and the parents know each other as well. In the case of a social pod, it might include two or more friends who already seemed attached at the hip.

If you are left out, try to understand that the decision may not be personal. Not everyone can be invited to every party. The reasons for oversight or exclusion may relate more to health and safety than to how the group feels about you personally. For example, the participants in the pod may feel you have different values than they do or that they are less willing to take risks than you. Or they may leave out someone who works at an office because it increases the risks of exposure. The group may have simply made a conscious decision to limit its numbers. 

Circles of friends always entail some type of chemistry. In the case of a pod that involves families, it may not be you but something about your spouse or children that didn’t seem to fit. Practical matters, like geography, workload, and school grade, also weigh into decisions to invite people to participate in pods.  

Some tips for recovering 

So how do you recover when you are the one left out in this game of musical chairs? Even if you assess the situation rationally and dispassionately, it still hurts to be left out whether it’s in a lunchroom or at the water cooler, whether you are a child, teen or adult. 

  • If you feel close to the people in the pandemic bubble and consider them true friends, you might want to ask one of them if they can help you understand why you were left out, making sure not to come across as confrontational. Their answer may help you feel better and move forward.
  • If your friendships with the people who excluded you are meaningful ones to you, don’t let being left out of the pod squelch the friendship(s) entirely. Remember that physical distancing isn’t the same as social distancing. Find other ways to remain connected.
  • Find another pandemic bubble or create one. Just because you weren’t a good fit for this pod doesn’t mean you aren’t “pod-worthy.” Stay open to other opportunities and even consider the possibility of creating your own, bearing in mind that it’s always easier to start with one friend rather than a group.

And remember that bubbles aren’t all they are cracked up to be; you may have had second thoughts about adhering to the rules or disappointed by others who broke them. For this and a myriad of other reasons, pods and bubbles often fall apart. 

With all the rapid changes that have taken place, everyone is feeling isolated, a bid edgy and easily hurt. Hopefully, the pain will dissipate over time. 

Yet, if you feel like you are always excluded from groups—now during the pandemic and even before then—you may want to speak to a close family member or mental health professional to see if they can help you gain some insight into the problem.

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Comments (2)

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  1. officerripley says:

    “Yet, if you feel like you are always excluded from groups—now during the pandemic and even before then—you may want to speak to a close family member or mental health professional to see if they can help you gain some insight into the problem.”

    Yeah, good luck with the mental health professionals; I and others I’ve known have wasted years trying to get help making friends from those professionals; usually all head-nodding, “I see”s, “Hmmm”, and “How did that make you feel?” rather than any real advice. The one time I got “advice”, it was “Maybe you should try going to church.” When I told her I’m an atheist, she frowned & took a step back from me. Um, ‘kay; bye bye, therapist & thanks for nothing!

    • Irene says:

      Hi, I can understand your frustration but the idea is to ask someone else who an be honest and forthcoming about whether there is any behavior that may be off-putting. It’s hard for one to see that in oneself. This doesn’t imply that this is an easy fix! My best, Irene

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