Image description: a park on a sunny day filled with people walking and cycling together
Since Boris Johnson announced England’s roadmap out of lockdown, it feels like the 21st June is all anyone has been able to talk about. Yes, we know that this date is subject to change, but seeing the finish line has provided the hope that has not been present this year. Tickets to festivals are being booked, holidays are being planned and summer vacation plans are growing by the minute. All we’ve wanted is for things to go back to normal, and it finally looks like there’s a chance of this happening.
However, are we making a massive assumption by saying that social interaction will go back to the way it was before? Coming in and out of lockdown, as well as the brief introduction of a tiered system means that none of us have been in a restriction-free society since 23rd March 2020. Is this going to impact our long term interactions? My opinion is that in the long term, social interaction will resume the role it played in society prior to March 2020. However, I also believe that in the short term it will not be the same, and it would be naive to think otherwise.
I want to start with why I believe that ultimately our social interactions will not be altered by the coronavirus. My primary reason for this belief is the necessity of human connection, a fundamental need, which I feel guarantees an eventual return to ‘normal’ social interaction. Our society is built on providing methods of meaningful relations right from the day we are born. Babies go to baby classes for everything: yoga, music, dance – you name it, there is a group! Schools and universities provide multiple opportunities for social interaction beyond the classroom through societies, and the workplace is organised around social spaces.
Furthermore, holidays and celebrations reveal our natural desire for socialising; parties and gatherings are often the highlight of our year. Take New Year’s Eve, for example: pre-Covid, hundreds of people would travel to London to bring in the new year with their friends, but also surrounded by people they do not know, which I believe shows how much we value social situations.
Yet all these experiences that clearly mean so much to us have not taken place in almost a year, and it is evident that people want them back. It is clear from our rotation through various social media platforms: moving from FaceTime, to House Party, to Zoom, that we have an innate desire for face-to-face connection. Given how hard we have tried to replicate in-person socialisation, it seems safe to say that social interaction will eventually become what it was.
Our society is built on providing methods of meaningful relations right from the day we are born.
However, it is important not to get ahead of ourselves, as it would be unwise to suggest that it will not take us time to adjust. Given how long it has been, it makes sense that conversation and interaction will take time to become ‘natural’ for us in our day to day lives. At the moment, a social interaction outside of your household is a pre-planned event, confined to a limited period of time due to the fact that it has to be whilst on a walk, or perhaps a run or cycle if that’s something you enjoy. Therefore, moving to interactions which can happen at any time, and for any duration, is certainly going to take some adjustment.
Furthermore, with the rise of conversations via Zoom and the like, the ability for there to be more than one conversation happening at a time has temporarily been lost. In large groups not hindered by lagging WiFi, it is inevitable that simultaneous conversations will begin to break out, and these will take time to get used to again. Whilst I believe that these processes will slow down our transition into ‘normal’ social interaction, it is important to remember that it will come with time. Furthermore, this transition will be eased by Boris’ roadmap, which will open up social interactions slowly, which will give us time to adjust.
Thus, I hope I have shown that social interactions following the easing of lockdown will eventually mirror what we had before. However I do not want us to pretend that it is going to be an easy process, I think people will find it hard to adjust, but ultimately there is hope for things to go back to the way they were.
Image credit: Ignacio Brosa, Unsplash