By Sandy Rodriguez
Who would have thought that so many people would have such extreme opinions about everything from social ills to how jeans should fit? Many factors might have driven this phenomenon, but Covid was certainly one of them.
Forced and unwanted solitude can lead to boredom and frustration, as well as a craving for exciting distractions— and picking a fight or starting a heated argument ensures experiencing drama. Also, isolation often goes hand in hand with increased social media use. I am a big proponent of social media, yet even I notice that it rarely exposes users to new or varied ways of thinking, but rather to ideas that are in line with their existing beliefs. No matter what we think, then, social media serves an echo chamber that can make us grow more convinced that we’re completely right about everything.
Even those not prone to hanging out online might have lost the ability to compromise, simply because when one is completely alone, there’s no need for negotiation. This lack of empathy seems to have spilled over into the limited real-life interactions that did take place, as evidenced by the uptick in aggressive driving.
Fake news, regardless of who popularized the term, is a real thing and can hurt people on any side of the political spectrum. Almost all reporting is biased to some degree, partly because a media outlet’s company culture shapes the way information is presented, but mostly because no human being—and hence, no reporter or editor— can be wholly objective. Also, financial interests can play a part. Picture a fragrance brand that is a major advertiser in a beauty magazine. If the company launches a foul-smelling perfume, the publication might claim the scent is far more pleasant than it actually is.
One way to determine if the news is likely to be false, or at least slanted, is by checking to see if it seems to focus only and exclusively on extolling the virtues or highlighting the flaws of an individual, situation, or idea. Things are rarely black and white, all good or all bad, and if there is no nuance, reporting is likely either biased or not painting a full picture.
To get a better understanding of an issue, it is sometimes helpful to venture outside one’s comfort zone. Try seeking out websites, channels, podcasts, or reporters that you don’t think align with your beliefs and hear them out, keeping an open mind.
Another good idea, if you are particularly concerned about a specific issue, is to search for reporting from someone who has no skin in the game. For instance, an article from Germany or India about a problem in the U.S. might be reasonably trustworthy, since it comes from a disinterested party. There are plenty of English-language newspapers and magazines from around the world, and they’re often worth a look.
Now that life is moving toward a pre-Covid normalcy, many people will once again interact with coworkers and clients, go out on dates, and make new acquaintances. Even if we mostly spend time with friends who mirror our own beliefs, the individuals we encounter over the course of a regular day can express points of view that differ from our own. Given today’s highly polarized society, where tempers easily flare, developing mediation skills and more sensitivity toward the plights of different people is likely to make you very sought-after in business or even as a dinner party guest. Choosing to prevail in the current climate does not necessarily mean being loud and unyielding, at least not before understanding where others are coming from.
Even after Covid is no longer considered a particularly relevant health issue—and that day is just around the corner—some individuals will not be returning to their usual workplace. In addition to plenty of businesses being forced to shut down, certain companies have used Covid as a justification to implement remote work on a more permanent basis, in order to save money and potentially become more efficient.
Many people were indeed more productive when working from home, and perhaps even enjoyed the time they spent away from the office throughout the pandemic scare. However, being a remote worker for the rest of your life creates special challenges that need to be addressed. It’s one thing to be locked up at home when everybody else on the planet is in the same boat. It’s quite another to be confined to your residence, eyes glued to a screen, while others are out and about, enjoying renewed camaraderie, taking part in watercooler conversations, and planning business lunches.
If you are to work remotely from now on, making sure to be well groomed and appropriately dressed will go a long way toward lifting your spirits. Staying in pajamas all day, unshowered, both expresses and generates feelings of depression. Especially if you live in an expensive city or neighborhood, make it a point to enjoy whatever it has to offer during your spare time. It doesn’t make sense to be making hefty rent or mortgage payments if you’re going to spend all your waking hours within four walls.
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For hardcore introverts, reopenings might feel strangely undesirable. Years ago, a few of my homosexual friends in Mexico City expressed dismay rather than delight when gay marriage was okayed. They felt that one of the few upsides of being gay at the time—no societal pressure to snag a spouse— would be gone. Similarly, now that Covid is becoming less of a concern and people are allowed to mix and mingle more freely, there is some pressure to do so.
In reality, even the most socializing-averse of us can benefit from venturing outside at least occasionally. If you hardly ever want to see your friends or your romantic partner in person, perhaps you need to find more appealing friends or romantic partners. Going online, paradoxically, can help you identify a more compatible, compelling circle through community event postings, dating sites, and such.
One benefit that Covid did offer the world was lessening the stigma attached to distance learning, since almost anyone who was a student during 2020 is likely to have used this system in some form. Online degrees earned by working adults are now considered particularly desirable by many employers, since they demonstrate drive, digital literacy, and great time management skills.
One benefit that Covid did not offer 99% of the world was the opportunity to improve fitness levels. Yes, some highly disciplined individuals subscribed to online fitness classes, dusted off their home exercise equipment, or exercised outdoors, and found a way to prepare fresh, healthy meals. Most people, however, moved around less than usual and were less vigilant about their food, sometimes leading to extra pounds—the dreaded “Quarantine Fifteen.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if the unavailability of gyms were partly responsible for the trend toward loose-fitting clothes, especially jeans. At the time of this writing, there is a bit of a generational debate going on—members of Gen Z praise baggier pants while Millennials cling to their beloved skinny jeans—but overall, skintight styles are giving way to a more voluminous look. Store closures could also have triggered this new fashion,
since it’s impossible to try pants on when shopping online, and a baggy pair does not demand a precise fit.
Speaking of precision, readers of my 2020 book, Choose to Prevail, might recall that I used to spell the name of the virus “COVID-19,” whereas now I’m opting for “Covid.” The spelling of words changes over time. Hyphens and capitalization tend to disappear, I’ve noticed, once things are perceived as more commonplace. Consequently, we rarely write “the Web” or “teen-ager” anymore, because we don’t view the web or teenagers as new phenomena anymore.
For the record, in the past, there was no such thing as a teenager. People between the ages of 13 and 19 were not considered to have any defining characteristic as a group, and there was no bridge between childhood and adulthood. The concept of “teen-agers” came into play in relatively recent history, and I can only guess it inspired a bit of fear and uncertainty in parents and in society in general.
Covid hurt many people financially and psychologically. It ended human lives. But every day it inspires less fear and uncertainty. It is no longer dominating our experience to the same extent it did throughout most of 2020. Whether it ever fully goes away or not, eventually it will become a nonissue for most of the population. At that point, I’m going to stop capitalizing the word and just spell it “covid.”
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