A global, coronavirus that keeps us contained in our homes may be for months is already reorienting our relationship to government, to the outside world, even to each other. Some changes these experts expect to see in the coming months or years might feel unfamiliar or unsettling: Will nations stay closed? Has Will touch become taboo? What will become of restaurants?
But crisis moments also present opportunity, young adults who were usually quite sociable and accustomed to frequently going out found the lockdown difficult but compensated by engaging more in online activities. Students especially experienced relational instability, often reporting the loss of contacts, unable to maintain their generally larger social networks.
The coronavirus lockdown has been a unique social experience that has had significant effects on our social relationships. Some have been strengthened while others have come under severe strain. Many people have found themselves confined for prolonged periods of time with other people and have come into conflict with each other. Others have experienced lockdown alone, resulting in profound social isolation. Some of our everyday interactions have intensified and others have not been possible at all.
Many people turned first and foremost to family or close friends, caring about their health and wellbeing. They offered emotional support, sometimes providing material and practical help and benefited from the same support in return.
This loss of innocence, or complacency, is a new way of being-in-the-world that we can expect to change our doing-in-the-world. We know now that touching things, being with other people, and breathing the air in an enclosed space can be risky. How quickly that awareness recedes will be different for different people, but it can never vanish completely for anyone who lived through this year. It could become second nature to recoil from shaking hands or touching our faces—and we might all find we can’t stop washing our hands.