You’re Not Imagining It, Time Feels Like It’s Moving Faster In Quarantine
‘How long have we been quarantine? Five weeks? Two days? Where are we? Help me to recollect.’
As we dwell within our own four walls, forlornly looking out the window, thinking of the social days of yore, time has become even more fickle. It is simply a construct, after all – but for many of us, the speed at which our existence passes is even more of a blur right now.
It’s a fascinating juxtaposition; for many, it’ll feel like we’ve been in lockdown for ages. Yet, simultaneously, weeks pass with the blink of an eye. If you’re experiencing this bizarre sensation, you’re not alone – time is messed up for everyone.
Take a quick glance on Twitter and you’ll find plenty of people struggling to get to grips with the clock. As one user wrote: ‘How has April lasted five seconds but I feel like I’ve been in lockdown for about six years, yet most of quarantine has been in April. IS TIME GOING FAST OR SLOW?’
Claudia Hammond, author of Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception, told the Los Angeles Times that ‘time can warp very easily’, and it seems to be ‘going really fast’ right now. But why?
Think about your daily routine before outbreak measures. For me, I’d get up, walk to work, maybe socialise with colleagues after my shift, go to the cinema and then the pub, then come home and chill out before bed. Currently though, the range of activities are vastly limited – we’re mostly doing the same thing every single day.
In that regard, why should we make any conscious effort to remember each day? ‘The more emotional a memory, the longer perception of time duration. We’re not making loads of new memories now, so we don’t think lots of time has passed,’ Hammond explained.
It’s actually quite a remarkable phenomenon. Take a weekend trip away for example; time flies when you’re having fun, but due to its significance, it’ll feel like a longer event in retrospect. Whereas at the other end of the spectrum, such as a weekend in lockdown, time passes slowly as you experience it, but appears rapid in hindsight.
James Broadway, an instructor of psychology at Lincoln Land Community College in Illinois, compared this to the human experience that comes with age – as we grow older, new adventures generally lessen, creating the illusion that years are going by quicker than ever before.
‘Our brains remember the unusual,’ as Adrian Bejan, a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke University, said. There’s not much peculiarity in a day in the house, therefore we have less tangible memories.
Of course, not everyone is twiddling their thumbs. For key workers, like healthcare professionals and supermarket staff, Hammond posits ‘it will be the other way around’ when they look back on this period.
While Broadway says now ‘is a really good opportunity to embrace doing nothing’, we can combat the slog of time by creating events for ourselves. ‘Make the weekends different from the weekdays,’ Hammond advised.
Staying at home has already proven to have rippling effects on our psyche. It’s even getting to us in the dead of night, with many across the world experiencing vivid ‘quarandreams’. Still, for a lot of us, it seems it won’t feel like it’s lasted too long.
It’s okay to not panic about everything going on in the world right now. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization, click here.