real life

The Third Quarter: Why everyone in your life is genuinely really weird right now.

Yesterday, I made three phone calls.

The purpose was to check in on people. Make sure they were okay. Maybe talk about myself a little bit. (A lot).

And then something weird happened.

Everyone I spoke to cried.

As far as I can tell, it wasn’t anything I said. All three were experiencing a complication in a close relationship. Some with family who they were isolated with. Others with friends they hadn’t physically seen but were speaking to.

The thing is – and I couldn’t say this to any of them – but none of their squabbles even really made sense.

Everyone has lost the plot, I thought.

A friend told me she’s been picking fights with her sisters just for “something to do”. Another complained that her mum asked where the dog was three times, when it was sitting directly in front of her. Everyone at work keeps saying ‘Happy Friday’ when it’s only Wednesday and another left a voicemail to a colleague, and when it came time to recite her phone number she just… forgot it.

You’ve probably noticed that everyone you follow on Instagram is now inviting you to watch them cook dinner in just 16, easy-to-follow steps. Or the person who has never posted before is starting a live video with, “SO. Everyone’s been asking me how I’m doing my roots in iso…”

Who is asking?

If they’re not uploading tutorials then they’re addicted to Tik Tok, barely lip-syncing songs you’ve never heard of, or posting throwback pictures from when they were 20.

Even I’m doing Tik Toks and I don’t know why.


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Nailed it ???? @miafreedman

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Then there’s Nobel prize-winning immunologist Professor Peter Doherty who tried to Google ‘Dan Murphy opening hours’. But accidentally tweeted it. At 1:30pm. On a Monday.

Ben Fordham was live on television when his son came up behind him and started hitting him over the head with a toy. The broadcast just continued as though nothing had happened, with Fordham casually muttering that his kids were meant to be doing school work.


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Live TV from home

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We are a country slowly unravelling.

It turns out this isn’t just true in my world. According to a piece published by Triple J’s Hack this week, we have entered the “dreaded third quarter of isolation… when things get weird”.

According to Dr Kimberley Norris who spoke to Hack, there have so far been two clear periods in isolation.

The first was typified by confusion and panic buying. We all sweated a little more than usual and rushed to the supermarket, running around in circles unsure of what we were actually meant to buy.

The second was the ‘honeymoon’ period. We scheduled Friday night Zoom calls and did a lot of yoga. Things felt exciting. Novel. Like a holiday.

But this week, according to studies of people isolated in submarines or on polar expeditions in Antarctica, we have entered what’s referred to as the ‘third quarter phenomenon’.

On today’s episode of Mamamia Out Loud, we discuss the ‘third quarter phenomenon’. Post continues below. 

The third quarter is just after the midpoint, when the end is in sight. A number of studies have found that people become irritable, turning on each other, and developing paranoia. People are more likely to lose their tempers, and are more prone to emotional outbursts. We feel bored in the day-to-day mundanity and are therefore less productive. Days and weeks blend into each other. Claustrophobia sets in.

Jocelyn Dunn, a human performance engineer who spent eight months inside a dome habitat with five others as part of a space exploration simulation, says that it’s in the third quarter that the “novelty of everything is gone”.

Dunn noted that at the beginning everyone is on their best behaviour. But eventually, things start to deteriorate. People also tend to retreat in the third quarter, further isolating themselves which compounds their sense of loneliness.

Our memory might begin to play tricks, and our sense of time is distorted.

There is, however, some good news.

According to Dr Norris, about half of those who experience social isolation, actually want to go back.

They discover that there are many lessons to be learned – most critically, it sharpens their personal values.

Perhaps this week, we will all be eccentric on Instagram, and yell at our partner’s for blinking so slowly.

But, as they say, this too shall pass. And according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s most recent press conference, the restrictions placed upon us will gently begin to ease.

The end is in sight. Let’s not destroy any intimate relationships before we get there.

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