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Is the pandemic dividing us more as a society?

The coronavirus has changed our way of life, but it might not be all that bad

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Is the pandemic dividing us more as a society?
Two men have lunch in a restaurant in Vienna, Austria. (AP)

Yes and no. It's circumstantial, and technology is saving us.

Says professor Laurence Basirico, Ph.D. Chair of Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Elon University of North Carolina.

The answer might be confusing, but he explains that yes, on one hand, we have become more separated due to “social distancing”, a term not appropriate for its description -should be “physical distancing”-, but on the other, we have connected in many different ways.

“For some, yes, it is social distancing because they have cut off many contacts. But the idea behind six feet and wearing masks, and so on, does not necessarily limit social distancing. In fact, in many ways, it promotes social closeness”, he says.

There are too many circumstances to specifically explain this apparent contradiction, but what it means is that, even though we have to keep our distance, we are more open to help and to connect with others. There is a sense of collectiveness.

“We are fighting a common enemy. Just as if it were a war or a terrorist attack. We have reached out to people that we haven’t spoken to in years. We have Zoom conversations. In many ways, these meetings are better attended than before, because we feel a sense of obligation to participate, whereas before, we often relied on the bystander effect”, explains the professor.

There are still some who put themselves before others, thinking the government is violating their rights with stay-at-home orders as small businesses are suffering. Laurence thinks the solution is in leadership.

“I don’t want to get too political, but if we had leadership at the top, the president, for example, who would tell people that it is important that we all look out for each other, that we all work together, rather than focus on individual gain, I think that would help. Also, as parents and teachers, we can do the same kind of modeling”, he explains.

Also, technology has played a huge role in keeping society united and informed. Maybe a year ago we were reading articles about how it separates us and makes us more individualistic. But today it certainly has “saved us”.

The sentiment of missing friends, coworkers, and family abroad, all of it makes people want to connect more and talk more using their cellphones, computers, etc.

“I can’t even imagine how lonely people would be without the ability to stay in touch with their friends, families, and work (for many)”, says Laurence.

He adds: “And every day, through technology, we share and reinforce a common bond: we are in this together. That is pretty powerful.”


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