by Ben Lawson

The virus that seemed insignificant to many at first transformed into a frightening pandemic that shocked the world. COVID-19 has affected millions of people across different cultures, generations  and socio-economic statuses. The world as we once knew it seems almost unrecognizable: schools have shut down, businesses have closed, travel is at standstill, kids aren’t allowed to see their grandparents, social distancing has led to a rise in mental illness. The economy has taken a monumental hit. What has this virus done to our communities and our sense of comradery? Only time will tell.    

Social distancing is a term commonly used to describe an approach for combating COVID-19. People are told to stay home and avoid social interactions with anyone other than whom they are living with to try to reduce the spread of this highly contagious virus. This term should be redefined as physical distancing because complete social isolation is not the solution. We should make sure to be six feet apart from people and stay home as best we can, but we shouldn’t lose contact with the outside world. We should partake in phone calls and video calls as often as we can to prevent loneliness and depression from prevailing during these tough times. Let’s redefine social distancing as connecting socially from a safe distance.   

Although social isolation could be the most effective solution to stopping the spread of the virus, it comes with consequences, most notably a rise in mental illness. Maintaining connections and a sense of community is still just as important as it was before our advised lockdowns. Kids are stuck at home and have been stripped of their biggest source of social interaction: school. Although this is true, many kids make up for this deficit with technology. Kids partake in daily video calls with their friends and even some of their teachers to keep them sane. Unfortunately, this isn’t common among older generations. According to a committee convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “Loneliness is tied to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, dementia, high cholesterol, diabetes, and poor health in general. People who are lonely are also more likely to use alcohol and tobacco and exercise less.” Those who are giving in to social isolation rather than just merely physical isolation, are in danger of numerous health risks including anxiety, depression and detachment from the outside world. It is easier for older generations to gradually become more lonely during this constrained time because they aren’t as adept at connecting through technology as many kids and young adults are.  

The coronavirus has caused many socio-economic problems throughout the world, but some good has come from it. It has lowered stress levels among teens due to less work and an opportunity for more sleep. It has provided families with the gift of time in order to grow and create stronger bonds. It has brought out the good in so many, and we continue to see millions of people that are willing to work towards a common goal to flatten the curve of the pandemic. It has challenged schools and people by forcing them to adapt and learn how to operate in a completely new way, primarily through technology. Previously there have been studies done showing the consequences of increased technology, especially among teens. However, according to an associate professor of psychology, Jamil Zaki, “The same technologies we often blame for tearing apart our social fabric might be our best chance, now, of keeping it together.” Community is one of the most important things in life, especially during times of struggle like these, so anything that allows us to achieve that is incredibly important. We can call and facetime our grandparents and let them know we are here for them, continue to zoom for our classes and meetings, and to spread awareness. Ulysses S. Grant once said, “I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.” In times of crisis and chaos, humanity’s true nature is shown. Let us join together to fight for those who need our help and recognize that we all have a common goal: to stay connected and to assist those who have been affected by COVID-19. 

We learn more and more about the effects COVID-19 and will continue to adapt to the challenges that it bears. Even though we are engaging in physical distancing, the most important thing is to stay connected through technology and to nurture our neighborhoods and healthcare communities by spreading positivity and awareness. Fighting for those who have been affected by coronavirus is our best shot at combating this terrible pandemic. Keep your family and friends close at heart and hope for the best possible outcome.     

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