How The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Making Us Antisocial, And What to Do About It

Learn how the fear of the COVID-19 virus can (and is) impacting our lives negatively, and what you can do about it in this guide. An audio version is available to listen here: COVID fear factor.

Keep reading to learn more.

Coronavirus does not just affect your health
Coronavirus does not only affect your health, it does a lot more than that

When fear is useful, and when it is not

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of fear, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing but can become bad when it is taken to the extreme. A certain amount of fear is good for us, sensible even, because that helps us take steps to prevent and minimise the impact of the virus.

However, the fear is not good if it becomes all-encompassing and overrides our ability to rationally think things through and make informed, and smart decisions.

Unfortunately, that is what has been happening since the inception of the pandemic, as the fear of the pandemic keeps growing its influence and its impact on our ability to think things through.

Fear is not inherently bad, but too much of it negatively impacts our ability to think and can cloud our judgement.

Do you remember how, during the early days of the pandemic supermarkets ran out of toilet paper? That was a result of the COVID fear factor in action.

Think about it, why would people worry about stocking up on toilet paper to protect themselves against an airborne virus – doesn’t really make sense, does it. Is toilet paper a basic necessity, or even something you need to keep yourself safe from an airborne virus?

Hardly.

Supermarkets running out of hand sanitizer is understandable, but toilet paper running out doesn’t make much, if any, sense.

Here’s the thing about fear: when it becomes overwhelming, it becomes irrational. And irrational fear makes people do not just things that make little to no sense, but also things that can actually be harmful. Harmful to not just them, and others too, which then snowballs the negative impact of fear.

Fear in moderation is useful, but when fear overrides our capacity to think things through it becomes harmful, dangerous even. I had recent experience of this when I saw some people going around in what looked a lot like gas masks. That is overkill. Even if they somehow completely avoid breathing in the pathogen, they can still get it on their clothes.

So what do they do then, incinerate their clothes as soon as they go home? Have a decontamination chamber built before entering their homes?

I doubt that.

Those are not reasonable expectations, but then how can a gas-mask like mask keep you safe?

Excessive effort like that hardly makes sense when you really think about it. I’m not saying don’t do it – do it if it makes you feel good, but it’s also important to realise that you can’t completely protect yourself from the infection a hundred percent.

Everything in moderation is a better course of action.

This also goes for how we connect with others. The pandemic has significantly changed how we connect with others, and not always for the good.


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Human connection is important
Human connection is important

The Pandemic’s impact on human connection

Connecting with others is important. Our current state of improvements, evolution and technological breakthroughs is a direct result of our social nature. We find more and better solutions and come up with newer and better ideas when we meet, talk, and collaborate. Imagine how things would be when people are worried about even talking with each other, like right now.

The other day I noticed myself being worried about talking to someone outside even though I was pretty intrigued by the person. That’s not my usual self: I am usually driven by my curiosity. But this time I took a step back. Later when I thought about why I didn’t do what I usually would have done I realised that that behavioral change is a direct result of the current pandemic and all the precautionary measures I’ve read and heard about, like how the spread increases when we speak. Even though I’m not totally on board with that policy it still must have seeped into my psyche, even it was a little bit, which then affected my behaviour. It is not hard to be affected by what you hear and read, which then makes it even more important to be aware of what you pay attention to, and your own thoughts and behaviour.

As for human connection, It’s sad that we don’t interact with people we don’t know as often or as normally as we used to. Human interaction is not as effortless or as seamless as it used to be.

If we blindly follow the rules set out to minimise the spread of the virus, like no socialising outside, no talking with others and so on, society as we know it will vastly change and not necessarily for good.

Virtual communication has become more popular as of late, and that’s great. However, even though virtual modes of communication are very useful, they are not and can never be replacements of real human interaction. The tangible interaction with a human being can never be replaced by technology or digital communication modes.

And don’t even get me started on how virtual communication can not create serendipitous connections – you just can’t accidentally meet people online, and that’s not necessarily a good thing in the grand scheme of things. 

What can you do?

Take precautions, absolutely, but you also need to review the guidance with a pinch of salt. At the end of the day, will the lockdowns and our worries about the spread of the virus, and the infection, and the anti-social practices they’re fostering really do more good than bad? Is the social alienation and economic costs, both in the short term and in the long term, really be worth it?

Only time will tell.

But here’s my personal opinion: take precautions (like cleaning hands and wearing masks), but don’t cut yourself off from human interaction completely. Looking after your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and putting yourself in a bubble devoid of human interaction does not help you do that.

Human interaction is an essential part of our mental health and happiness, so keep that in mind when deciding what to do, and what not to do. Think for yourself, but do think, and don’t just blindly listen to whatever you hear about safety and protection, because blindly following the directives would more or less mean putting yourself in a bubble! And unless you can get inside a bubble and stay there (like Bubble Boy), you can’t be a hundred percent safe. 

Even people who take the most precautions can get infected, and do. You cannot completely cut the risk of contracting the virus a hundred percent. But that’s not the end of the world, because even if you do catch the virus, you can get better (especially if your mental and physical health are in good form).

You can recover from Coronavirus, but you can’t recover from missed opportunities of joy and happiness with the people closest to you.

Here’s the good news: you can be safe, and also connect. They are not mutually exclusive. Don’t let fear of the virus (and lack of information or misinformation) damage your relationships.

At the end of the day, no matter how many precautions you take you can still get infected. The virus is airborne after all, so the simple act of breathing on your part is all it really takes for the pathogens to enter your system. You can take precautions to improve your chances of not getting it, but you can never completely eliminate the possibility of getting it.

For me, personally, I feel it’s better to prepare for the worst-case scenario. I am preparing myself to deal with it after I get it. Things that’ll help with fighting the virus off and recovering, like taking care of my health. Things like working out regularly, eating well, avoiding food items that cause inflammation, self care, meditation, gratitude log, and so on.

The fact is, there’s absolutely no way to guarantee that you’ll not get infected by the virus. But you can do things to increase your chances of recovering. Most people who get infected recover naturally anyway, and being in good health improves your chances of fighting it off that much more. So take precautions, but don’t completely cut yourself off from connecting with others. Weigh up the pros and cons and then decide for yourself the best course of action.


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You need to weigh up the pros and cons of your actions
You need to weigh up the pros and cons of your actions

Weigh up the pros and cons

Don’t go out and meet all of your friends and family, but don’t completely isolate yourself either. Moderation works. You can take preventative measures, and connect with a handful of the people who are closest to you. You are coming in contact with people anyway, so you might as well get some joy out of it.

Don’t do everything you would do normally and start going out and socializing like normal, but completely cutting yourself off from the people that matter is overkill.

It doesn’t have to be either or: you can connect with your loved ones and be smart about it to minimise the potential risks.

Our interaction with others literally shapes the way we think, and feel. Everything we know about the world we learn as a result of our interactions with others, and even when we learn how to think for ourselves our interaction with others has a massive impact on our feelings. It is important to take precautions to limit the spread of the virus, without a doubt, but it is also important to factor in the human and social cost of those actions.

Will completely shutting people in, like what happened during the quarantine, help lower the spread?

Extremely likely.

But is that ultimately good for us, when you factor in the emotional and economic costs?

I doubt it.

Relationships are fragile: they can take years to build but minutes to destroy, so it’s important to nurture and take care of your connections, especially with those you really value. Even if meeting people is challenging physically, you can still connect with them via phone, online chats and video calls. Digital communication will never be a proper substitute of face to face meets, but they are better than nothing at all.

Judge for yourself what’s the best course of action for you, rather than choosing to completely shut yourself out from the people close to you, or vice versa.

The bottomline

Here’s the bottomline: don’t let fear mongering and lack of information or misinformation get in the way of connecting with the people that matter. Understand how the virus works as well as what precautions really are effective, and then take reasonable measures to protect yourself, and others. Make decisions after weighing up the pros and cons rather than completely isolating yourself and becoming anti-social.

Yes things are challenging right now but calm, rational thinking is more important during times of crisis, not less.

Don’t go overboard and react irrationally, because panic and fear will not help you, but it will harm.

Panic and paranoia does you more harm than good
Panic and paranoia does you more harm than good

Three things to consider

Here are three things I want you to remember when it comes to making a decision as a result of the pandemic…

  • Prudence is important, but panic and paranoia is not.
  • Caution is smart, but anxiety is not.
  • Prevention is useful, but overreaction is not.

Always weigh up the pros and cons of your decisions, especially when they affect your long term wellbeing.

The silver lining

This year has been a tough one, with far too much uncertainty, confusion, and stressful events. The fear-mongering and misinformation in mass-media did not help. But despite all that has happened, we are still here.

Despite everything, you are still here, and not everyone can say the same

That makes you one of the lucky ones.

Celebrate that, because you survived one of the toughest years in human history, and as the saying goes what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Use the challenges and the hardships you have overcome to become better, and don’t let fear take control of your behaviour, of your thinking and of your actions.

Don’t let fear define who you are, and do not let the fear of the Coronavirus cut yourself off from others, especially the people near and dear to you.

Closing thoughts

The pandemic has changed the world as we know it, and the effects of it will be felt for a long, long time. It certainly can make us sick, but it doesn’t have to make us miserable too. So, think before you act and look after both your mental and physical health.

Here’s to a better year, and a better you.

Stay safe and stay sane.

 

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