Why I hate lockdown challenges

Halfway through a Netflix binge, I heard my phone bleep with the notification I had been dreading. I had just been nominated to take part in a task I really did not want to do.

From posting old photos to downing a pint, nominated challenges have completely dominated my Instagram feed over the past few weeks, but I won’t be pressing that ‘like’ button.

I know these games are a well-intended way of keeping us all connected during lockdown, but do I really need to show off my lockdown body with a pillow dress or remind everyone of what I looked like at 20?

With every nomination, there is added pressure to perform. Frankly, I’d rather survive this pandemic without the added stress. And what’s worse is the guilt and FOMO that follows when you decide not to complete your challenge. 

It started off with a nomination for a simple musical challenge – all I had to do was post my top nine influential albums. 

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It sounded easy enough, until I realised I would probably have music snobs commenting on my poor choices and questioning why my top nine included Spice Girls’ Spice (I am a child of the 90s after all). Did I really want to have to read comments about my poor taste in music, while also dealing with the everyday woes of living through a pandemic? No, I wanted to keep my spirits up by dancing around to Wannabe in private. 

While this was a relatively short task, others have required you to post on a daily basis, like your career depends on it. I may have more spare time on my hands right now, but I don’t want to have to log onto social media every day to take part in the 30-day song challenge, or to declare my top 10 albums over 10 days.  

Of course, some challenges have a lot more meaning to them, such as running 5k for the NHS. While I’d do anything I can to help our frontline workers, as someone who wouldn’t normally run – even for the bus – this task was my idea of hell.

Instead I donated £5, because I’m lucky enough to have a spare fiver at the moment, kept quiet and continued watching the telly.

But then came the FOMO as I scrolled through my Instagram feed and was faced with photos of friends all red and sweaty after completing their run.

Suddenly I felt left out, almost as if they’re all at a party and I’m not there. I started to panic that they would know I hadn’t done it as I hadn’t shared the obligatory boast post of an out-of-breath-picture (something nobody wants to see, believe me) and hashtag.

Then I began to berate the whole thing – why should I do something I wouldn’t normally do and don’t actually want to do? In the end, it felt like I’d run 5k in circles around my own head trying to think of the best way to respond to my initial nomination. (FYI – I finally deciding to stand my ground and pretend that nothing ever happened.)

But then, if being asked to do something you really do not want to do isn’t bad enough, not being nominated at all feels even worse.

Seeing close friends not name me in their five nominations sparks up paranoia, as I begin to worry if I’ve done something to upset them or if we have a one-way friendship.

And then there is the exclusive club: the challenges that we can’t all take part of. 

Couples have been posting their first photograph together, while nominating their loved-up friends to do the same. Looking back on memories of the early stages of a relationship may be great for the couple in question, but it doesn’t actually benefit anyone else.

I’m happily single, yet seeing these images leave me feeling down. Mostly because I can’t be nominated or take part, unless posing with an imaginary boyfriend counts.

I realise there are others who will feel even worse than me. What about those who long to be in love? Or those who are currently facing huge relationship problems caused by the lockdown?

I don’t want to sound like a bad sport – I know these challenges are designed to virtually bring us together and I love the fact that we are doing our best to keep spirits up during this isolation period.

But what I love more is when my friends actually check in with me. From phone calls to a simple heart emoji WhatsApp message, these are the exchanges that actually make me feel more connected to the world.

Coping with coronavirus lockdown is hard enough, so how about we just get in touch with our loved ones, rather than challenge them to complete a silly task.

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