As a new year starts people are eager to leave memories of the pandemic way behind, but the virus is relentless. Even when millions of Covid-19 vaccines have already been administered in America and around the world, some preventive measures such as mask-wearing should remain for some time according to health officials. How will a mask covered society affect our personal interactions, particularly within the young generation? We will soon discover that trust and closeness will not be conditioned by the use of masks or the lack of wearing them. Progress at all levels will depend on good connections with others, on our internal desire to build meaningful relations.
The use of masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19 has transformed people’s mindset globally. With the exception of some Asian countries already accustomed to using face masks to prevent contagion of infectious diseases, the measure has awakened controversy in the US and other countries where people have been told to get used to wearing masks as the “new normal.” After a year of partially covering our faces due to the pandemic, new research from European and North American experts revealed that it complicates social interaction between people since it disturbs “emotion reading from facial expression.”
The results of the study indicated that emotional states such as happiness, sadness, and anger were misperceived as neutral. And people disgusted were misinterpreted as angry. These findings were not meant to question the use of masks or not but to evaluate its psychological impact on human interactions. People will slowly start to realize what happened to them during this time since the virus appeared, as the changes unfolded, and why the world experienced such a dramatic transformation.
What should be done to move forward? Our progress will not be conditioned by mask-wearing or social distancing. It will depend on our ability to realize that the pandemic is activating our utmost desire: our need for connection with others as our world is revealed as increasingly interdependent.
As social animals, our longing for deeper and closer relations with others have become more visible, more authentic and qualitative. What has the virus taught us the hard way? It shows us that we had to keep distance between us since we were not in good connection with each other, were incapable of living together in brotherhood and positive relations. So we will not be able to get closer again until we internalize this principle and change direction toward a more balanced society.
Who are most affected by the lack of social interaction? Undoubtedly, the younger generation. Some of us may have forgotten what it means to be young, the first kiss and embrace. Therefore, it is hard for us to grasp what today’s youth experiences now. They feel harsh restrictions inside, they disagree with whoever wants to stop and limit them, they even curse the supreme force, nature, for bringing such a situation upon the planet. They are willing to get rid of anything in their way regardless of the consequences just to live the moment to its fullest.
Nature knows how to fix us. From a sociological level it could have been a much sharper blow. Imagine a world where human connection would not exist at all, in which our contact between relatives, couples, children, and parents completely vanished. A sort of complete disconnection in which we wouldn’t be able to breathe, would feel helpless, alone, empty. As painful as it is to remain distant from each other, the pandemic is still giving us an opportunity to change by conducting us to the right direction.
So, how can we not lose hope after a year of the pandemic? It is possible through our positive thoughts toward connection. If we constantly keep in mind that our good future depends on our relationships based on mutual care and solidarity, we will experience a fruitful and happy new year, full of positive emotions, purposeful revelations and learning experiences. We will know how to live properly, shortening the distance between us, connecting our hearts.