Coastal Commuter

No time to be going viral

A people person’s lament
When the restaurants and bars have all emptied, what’s a social animal to do?

Remember when “going viral” was a good thing? These days, it’s a phrase that suggests something much less desired than it did a few months ago when it was the fondest wish of every fledgling YouTube musician and would-be Instagram influencer. Going viral is nothing to sneeze at, and if there’s a cough going on, check the Centers for Disease Control website.

As I write this from my fortress of solitude in an undisclosed location, I am trying my best to adjust to the New Abnormal. I am, by nature, a social animal. Those who know me personally or on social media and even readers who stumble across my columns are probably aware that I go out way more than I stay in: screenings, concerts, gallery openings, dance clubs, and house parties. And I seldom dine or drink at home, so I do have my favorite restaurants and brew pubs. Mikey’s gotta eat — and drink a bit.

Well, all that has changed, whether I like it or not. I’ve been a shut-in for a few weeks, leading to a state of what I can only call “quaran-teen angst” — rather appropriate for an aging guy who happens to suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome. 

Like many since the COVID-19 hit the fan, the only human interaction I experience, other than careful visits to the grocery store to keep the larder stocked, is through phone, text, and Skype. Not that sojourns to the supermarket aren’t treacherous for a guy who lives off and loves the salad bar. When you wonder who’s been using the tongs to grab the arugula, you’ve got a problem. And I’m not crazy about what I see when I look at the list of questionable ingredients and nutritional facts on the frozen entrees I now have in my freezer to tide me over if necessary.


Those of us who are coupled and were already intimate when the outbreak broke continue to have the luxury of body contact. Those of us who are single and on lockdown can’t even high-five anybody, let along hug it out, without the potential for infection. 

I would say that mutual physical expressions of affection are generally healthy for people, and I don’t think I need to quote any scientific studies to back up that assertion. Good feeling makes you feel good. A lack of it can be debilitating.

The situation has had an impact on more than just civilized human behavior in an active society. As noted above, language is being affected. New coinages have been popping up, starting with the now omnipresent “social distancing.” That used to be what aristocrats did to avoid those they deemed beneath them. Now it could very well be a boon for someone at risk in a life-or-death situation. Then, there’s “sheltering,” which is no longer about someone protecting another, but about an individual choosing isolation in the interest of self-protection.


Traditional phrases denoting the current state of protective affairs (“cocooning,” “holing up,” “hiding out,” “hunkering down,” “laying low,” even “going off the grid” if you can’t stand to hear the seemingly endless stream of bad news from the media) are getting a workout — just not the kind you do in the local gym’s spinning class. That reminds me. The city got this one right: Stay out of the health club. It’s bad for your health. All of that sweat splashing around from the exertions of fellow fitness fanatics would’ve amounted to some dangerous condensation. If you have a stationary bike, a treadmill, free weights or something comparable at home, go at it. You don’t want to ossify. But you know that, unless you’ve been off living in a cave somewhere.

Now that I think about it, cave-dwelling would probably be a good thing for the duration of the crisis, considering that I’d be at much less risk than what most urbanites are undergoing. Of course, I’d need a generator and a WiFi connection to keep up with all those viral videos still somehow being cranked out. It’s a disease, I tell ya!

Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on Michael Snyder’s Culture Blast, via, Roku, Spotify, and YouTube, and The Mark Thompson Show on KGO radio. You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster

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