A London shopping mall presents a deserted look during lockdown.
Jessica Evans, The Independent
WhatsApp’s voice notes have always had the ability to be a source of joy, reassurance and comfort, but during the pandemic, when I haven’t been able to connect with friends in real life, they have become a key part of my mental health care regime. More human than a text message, less intrusive than a phone call and more personable than an email, there’s something raw about a voice note.
With their revealing nature, there’s no hiding your emotions in them. Nuance and feeling is there in abundance. Whether it’s a cheeky remark about work you would have usually typed back on in a text message, a coy laugh that you would have been able to cover up while messaging a crush as you play it cool, or a wobble in your voice as you tell your friend “I’m fine, really”, it’s difficult to completely filter a voice note down to a shiny package, which is what makes them so glorious in the first place.
Intimacy in relationships may have felt like it had fallen off the menu in 2020 within our friendships, early romances and bonds between our family members, but a voice note brings the sound of a loved one into our homes and fills our kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms with love, support and solace.
Jo Malone once described her favourite smells as the people closest to her, like her husband’s cologne. I believe our favourite sounds in life are made up by the people we love. The sound of my mum’s singing, my boyfriend’s mad laugh, my two-month-old nephew’s coos and my friend Laura’s greeting, “hello, my love” in her Glaswegian accent. Hearing these familiar sounds made me feel safe in such a chaotic, uncertain time.
During the lockdown most of my days are reluctantly centred around screens. Whether it’s staring at my laptop working, taking breaks to scroll on Instagram, for downtime in the evening to watch a movie, my eyes have never been so square. Voice messages break up the day, injecting some life into it. Making time for them has been an act of self-care.
Often, most voice notes over this time haven’t been ones with a clear message or focus, but have been ramblings of one another’s days. That informal art of conversation has been something that has kept me sane. Hearing what people ate for their dinner, what TV show they’re loving and what they think about a celebrity’s recent baby announcement, rather than diving into the politics of lockdown, tiers and the virus.
I’m ashamed to say that unless I’m in the throes of infatuation with a new partner (yes, I’m a sellout), I am generally, terrible at texting back. I find it a slog and overwhelming with the endless on-going pressure of having to get back to someone within a specific time frame. With voice notes, there isn’t a pressure from either party to get back quick, lifting the strain off my mental health. It’s like an unwritten rule in the book of voice notes for beginners that you can listen whenever you like and get back in your own time.
You can also listen to them wherever you like. If you want to cook or tidy, you don’t have to worry about profusely apologising on a phone call for multitasking. There’s also beauty of the rewind and pause button, for when you’d like to relisten to any wise words or encouragement from friends on a down day. Something I did a lot when I was feeling really low.
It also helped with the loneliness I have felt in this time. During the first lockdown, my ex-boyfriend and I became a lockdown cliche and split up after the first few months. I moved into my parents and without girls’ nights out on the town to get me through a breakup, as I would normally do, I found myself in a new type of heartbreak wilderness.
I knew how to do breakups pre-lockdown but going through them in the midst of a pandemic was a slightly different dance. Each night I put time aside to listen to friends’ voice notes, and felt less lonely. Even though I couldn’t do karaoke with them and snog strangers in clubs in a bid to get one step closer to getting over a previous love, those recordings became a light.
Voice notes won’t be exclusively just for my mental health this year, but something I will carry on to incorporate in the care of my mental health in 2021 too — pandemic or not.
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