Could you pick a 10-person “social bubble”?

This week the possibility of socialising in a close bubble of ten people arose in the news...

Whereas this could sound like the light at the end of the tunnel of a never-ending lockdown, choosing 10 friends to hang out with could prove quite tricky. So how should we navigate this? By Marta Portocarrero.


When I read the news that the government is considering a plan to ease the lockdown and get us back together soon by making us choose a “bubble” of ten close friends and family we would be allowed to meet, I was quite happy.

I immediately imagined all the dinner parties, picnics, games nights or even just face-to-face conversations I could have.

I can’t really complain about my lockdown conditions, though. I’m lucky to be able to work from home, there are enough green spaces around when I desperately need to venture out and my boyfriend and I have been pretty good at coming up with creative ideas to keep us entertained, so I very rarely feel lonely. But being able to be in contact with other people would definitely be a bonus now!

The strategy

But suddenly I realised that this would also mean I had to choose my “social bubble”, and that people included in it would also have their say. And should I choose emotionally or strategically? Lockdown definitely doesn’t come with an instruction manual.

So, considering myself and Pedro, my boyfriend, there are now eight spots left. (I’m grateful we’re just two, as I can imagine the task being way harder for people with children).

These eight spots are also only reserved for friends, as all my relatives live in Portugal. (And I’m also grateful for that, because as much as I would like to include them in my “bubble”, my family is way too big and sensitive for me to choose eight spots without hurting anyone’s feelings).

So, my best friend gets spot number 1 (obviously!), but what about her boyfriend?! I surely need to include him too, otherwise she wouldn’t join. Ok, six spots left.

Then my two ex-flatmates, who are the best chefs and always up for a games night with red wine! But one of them has been self-isolating without her boyfriend, so I’ve decided they must enter the “bubble” together. He’s also probably the quietest person I know, so be good to have a listener in the group.

Ok, just three spots left. Well, I actually quite miss three other friends: a couple and Natalie, my friend from uni. So, done! Quite easy, actually!

The dilemma

Wait a second! Shouldn’t Pedro have his say too? Probably yes, given our “bubble” will be shared. Will he want to hang out with these people or would he make some replacements? I’m sure his friend with whom he discusses videogames and the latest technology will be on the list and what about the sweet couple he knows since high school? They must be there too.

But this is already three extra people, what do I do? Should I exclude my last three friends and replace them with Pedro’s choices? Or could I convince Pedro to drop the couple and keep the video games guy, so I only need to drop one of my choices? And who should it be? Natalie seems the most sensible choice since she’s not “attached” to any isolation unit. Would she take it badly? Or could I convince the girls to drop their boyfriends all together? But then why would I be allowed to keep mine? Ok, now this is becoming a nightmare…

The solution

It’s definitely not easy to come up with ten spots – and, having been in and out of London for the past few years – I don’t even think I have that many friends.

Surely life was easier before lockdown, when we could all meet up with however many people we wanted or whenever we felt like it, but there are definitely things to be grateful for right now and the chance to meet up with 10 people is one of them.

However, another thing to be grateful for is that we don’t have to make that decision just yet, because that would be a real nightmare to put it in place.