That’s a (Bubble) Wrap!

Saturday, May 29, 2021

As we wrap up the 65th year of Synapse’s publication, I’m reminded that in 2019, we were preoccupied with fake news. We were convinced that bubbles were the problem. Our social media bubbles, news bubbles, cultural bubbles — they had trapped us in microcosms of self-amplifying rhetoric.

We could not, or would not, reliably measure the temperature of other people’s thoughts in the United States and around the world.

In 2020, social bubbles were our last hope for a social life.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Californians were officially advised not to meet anyone outside our household. Unofficially, we were asked to consider who to include in our social bubbles, or pods, and who to exclude. A podcast called In the Bubble, hosted since January by UCSF’s Dr. Bob Wachter, tackled how to think about transmission risk under ever-changing local and federal guidelines.

As 2020 came to a close, we had to consider that with every meeting there was risk of infecting ourselves and others, and the anxieties that would entail, and to weigh those risks against the loneliness or depression that might result from isolating further.

With 2021, we entered the year of reopening, but not without its own pains. As of this writing, half of American adults have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control recently recommended that vaccinated individuals can go unmasked both indoors and outdoors.

However, the pandemic has been only one issue roiling in the United States, with ongoing attention on the wide-ranging effects of structural racism, including police brutality, and mass shootings which seem to roll in like clockwork from places as close as San Jose.

Fake news is still a huge problem, especially with respect to the knowns and unknowns of vaccines, but may no longer be the most concrete preoccupation of the day.

In the past year, Synapse brought you perspectives from UCSF’s Dr. Eric Goosby, who sat on President Joe Biden’s COVID task force, during a time not so long ago when vaccine supplies were limited and governments divided people into tiers to decide who would be vaccinated first.

We also brought you perspectives from students. Our most-read story of the year was “Uneasy About My Vaccine Privilege” by Wynton Sims, a first-year medical student who reflected on the experience of receiving a vaccination earlier than many essential workers encountering more potential sources of infection day to day.

From September 2020 to May 2021, our website analytics estimates nearly 70,000 views. As we enter our 66th year of publication in September 2021, we want to bring you more of what you want to read and serve as a platform for your voice. So as always, I encourage you to join us! At Synapse, we are always recruiting UCSF writers and thinkers.

If you have a burning desire to share your ideas, our editors and staff will work with you to draft and edit your articles. If you’d like to write with us but don’t know where to start, the editorial team pitches our ideas for articles at meetings every two weeks.

And we’re excited to introduce a new element to our news outlet next year as Synapse expands into the podcast world. Our first episode, a recording of our May Science Speaker event, is available for streaming on SoundCloud and on Spotify through Anchor.

For those who want to learn more about podcast production and audio editing, or to teach others your skills, this is your chance to join the Synapse community. We will be offering podcasting workshops next year.

To get involved, send us an email at synapse@ucsf.edu.

Finally, if you have a need for cold, hard gift card money, our annual Synapse Storytelling contest is returning this summer with $2000 in prize money!

The deadline for entry is Thursday, July 1, 2021.

This year, for the first time, we invite an unlimited number of entries in the categories of creative writing, photography, nonfiction, and science writing. And all honorable mentions that we publish receive $25.

Send us your best work, and good luck!