Personal Space: From Concerts to Quarantine
Our entire lives are filled with interaction with others, or the avoidance of such. Over the last couple of months, we have heard the word “bubble” a lot pertaining to social circles during COVID-19, but instead I want to discuss personal bubbles, their relation to concerts and how they have shifted amidst the pandemic.
What is Personal Space?
Personal space, or your personal ‘bubble’, is described as the area you occupy and call your own. In American society, conversational distance is generally 2 feet, and when this is broken it causes discomfort and is considered abnormal. People create barriers around themselves, going to extraordinary lengths to keep their personal distance from others, such as putting a bag on the seat next to them, wearing headphones or being on a pretend phone call, all while trying desperately to avoid eye contact, which Georg Simmel describes as the “most direct and purest interaction that exists”.
Concerts and Personal Space
Location and room layout are huge dictators of personal space expectations. At a concert, attendees will likely be set at a personal distance, 1.5 to 4 feet apart, depending on how full the show is and the layout of the venue. I am considering a small to medium sized venue such as The Hard Luck Bar or The Opera House, where close contact is inevitable. At these venues, all of the spacial conventions are more or less thrown out, where individuals not only expect, but likely hope for close contact with one another. Personal space is reduced to the bare minimum, and in the case of moshing, it is neglected almost entirely. The concert setting provides a community space to connect with others on the basic element of interest. This is enough to alter spacial conventions and invite others into your personal space.
Isolation, Nostalgia and Hope
This feeling of closeness has been ripped away from all of us over the course of COVID-19 with the halt of concerts and gatherings, leaving behind an element of alienation. The philosopher Camus describes alienation as a ‘dense’ feeling of being apart from the world, no longer feeling comfort in your home or yourself. This heavy feeling of isolation lingers over the stretch of quarantine, but it also brings nostalgia- the desire to return to a time where one felt at home in the world. The ability to feel nostalgic gives us hope that one day we can go back to those times we love and miss. Even though none of us will see the inside of a concert hall or feel the presence of strangers in our personal bubbles anytime soon, we can remember the times where we could, and hope to be there once again.
Over the last few months, we went from being one with a crowd of strangers in a mosh pit to complete isolation from all our peers. Remembering that we once had closeness gives us the hope that one day, hopefully soon, we can go back to the way things were- dancing and jumping, pushing and shoving through crowds of sweaty strangers.