May 26, 2020

Maybe we Need to Practice Better Social & Emotional Hygiene.


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COVID-19 and its devastating impacts on our health and economy have given us a reason to pause and slow down.

We have been forced to shelter-in-place and practice social distancing, but it has also given me some opportunity for reflection. As I was considering the effects of the virus and its viral spread, I started considering how it relates to our interactions in-person and online.

COVID-19 spreads quickly and easily within communities, cities, countries, and globally. It can linger on surfaces for multiple days without us knowing it is there. And it can be unknowingly passed on by people who do not even know they are carriers.

What if we could trace how our interactions with others spread both positive and negative energy? What if we could see how it affects our family, friends, neighbors, and community? Would we see a similar pattern?

Furthermore, what if the interactions that we have, however large or small, actually spread far beyond the people we are in direct contact with? This is not a new concept, but I have found it worth revisiting during this global pandemic and social distancing.

Would we be so quick to argue with our spouse if we could see how the negative energy creates an atmosphere that impacts not only us but our children? Would we be so quick to make a snarky comment on social media if we could see how it creates division, anger, or depression? It lasts far longer than the time it takes to read the negative statements or the length of the argument.

What if we knew these effects were not a one-time effect but had lasting ripple effects? What if we recognized that it impacted not only the person directly involved, but also, to a compounding degree, all those that the negatively affected person came in contact with.

As we are constantly reminded to practice better sanitation and hygiene—to protect not only ourselves but in many cases others who are more vulnerable than we are—I think we have an opportunity to start a sort of social and emotional hygiene.

As we enter a grocery store, put on a mask, or wipe off our carts with a sanitary wipe, could we also thank the cashiers for risking their health to serve our community? When we come home from the store and wash our hands, could we take the time to pause and reflect on how lucky we are to have shelter?

When our overbearing parents call and comment on our choices, could we pause and reflect on the generation of service that they provided to us growing up? Maybe thank them for how much they have cared for us?

When we open up social media and see something we don’t agree with, instead of commenting negatively, could we pause? Could we take a moment to reflect on how their opinions are wildly different from ours but might be worth considering?

We don’t as of yet have a way to measure the ripple effect of our positive and negative interactions with others (in person or on social media). Still, I am hopeful in this time of social distancing that we can consider how our exchanges might be even more powerful and globally connected than we ever previously believed, and therefore respond more thoughtfully.

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Zara Niederman  |  Contribution: 145

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