Social distancing was a crucial component of flattening the COVID-19 curve. For extroverts initially it was a challenge, but they adapted and discovered some perks. Working from home meant sleeping a little later, more time with family, and learning to bake bread. So much bread was baked. For introverts social distancing was a beautiful gift. Staying at home meant not having to deal with people, struggle through conversations, or make mindless small talk.
Now that restrictions have been relaxed, we all face an adjustment in our personality. We’ve been home so long the social skills we’ve developed for most of our lives to perfect are probably a bit rusty. This leads to a huge question. What is the long-term impact of social distancing on our social skills?
A Feeling of Loneliness In Social Distancing
Although the idea of staying at home and avoiding social interactions may have sounded great in the beginning, it was probably only a matter of time before you started to feel a bit lonely. Fortunately, Facetime, Zoom, and social media allowed us to keep some contact and help stave off loneliness. Unfortunately, for the elderly, who aren’t so technology savvy, this may not have been an option.
Research shows that when we do start to engage in social interactions again, those who felt loneliest during social distancing are more likely to feel vulnerable and anxious. They may also struggle with intergroup anxiety, which will leave them suspicious and distrustful when interacting with different groups.
Increased Social Anxiety
In a recent survey, people reported they were afraid they would have greater levels of social anxiety when they return to the level of social activity they had before the lockdown. If this is the case, they may have trouble socializing and communicating with others, even if they previously had their anxiety well controlled. This could cause them to avoid others, particularly in situations where they may be the center of attention.
Overall, We’re Adaptable
Fortunately, you are way more resilient than you might think. Social skills are a bit like riding a bike, you never really forget how to do it. So, all the social skills we’ve worked hard to learn over the years aren’t going to be forgotten after a few months of lockdown. When social distancing is over, researchers believe that we’ll quickly be able to readapt to being around others. Even more importantly, they have reason to believe that we will have realized just how valuable and important social interactions are, which could lead to improved social skills.
Before Coronavirus, we often took our social interactions for granted. It wasn’t unusual for many of us to let phone calls go to voicemail, come up with excuses not to go out with friends, and wait until we knew our neighbor was gone before walking outside in an effort to avoid small talk. Now, you may notice that people are more likely to answer your phone call, agree to a night out on the town, or talk about the weather with their neighbor. That’s because we’re starting to see just how important it is to have contact with our fellow human beings.
Only time will tell how our social skills are impacted by social distancing. Why not take this time to work on your own social skills with The Social Skills Center?