How Will Coronavirus Change Us?

28 May, 2020
Will the coronavirus crisis bring us closer together as a social group? Or will the fear of new pandemics completely change our way of life? We're sure that we'll eventually come out of this crisis, but what will be the long-term effects?

How will what we’ve experienced with the coronavirus change us? What impact will this experience have in one, five, or ten years from now? Every time we face a crisis, everyone that works in the field of psychology asks themselves these questions. We know that these types of events change us in the long term. We also know that, as human beings, we can learn a great deal.

Something that many people are wondering is whether we’ll come out of this as a more united society or if, on the contrary, COVID-19 will instill in us the need for social distancing as a means of protection against new infections.

The latter is a discouraging scenario. Moreover, it’ll be a quite unnatural way of living, as humans are social beings who need to be constantly connected to others for their well-being.

We all know that these circumstances are completely new. We can’t refer to previous research on the type of consequences or changes that a pandemic may cause in the population.

Many people have compared it to the so-called Spanish flu of 1918. However, the current context is very different. The health system is stronger, the virus is different, and its duration will undoubtedly be much shorter.

Nevertheless, and despite being better prepared, we’re aware that there’ll definitely be change. Let’s analyze how this might happen.

“The quest for meaning is the key to mental health and human flourishing.”

-Viktor Frankl-

How will coronavirus change us?

In the Chinese language, the word for crisis is weiji. This word on its own basically means pain or danger. However, it’s interesting to note that it consists of two characters. Firstly, 危 wēi, which translates into risk. The quest for meaning is the key to mental health and human flourishing. On the other hand, 机, a term from which we get ideas such as invention, spring, or change.

Something that the coronavirus experience is teaching us is that China is highly prepared to face great challenges. There are practically no new cases there, with the only cases being from people who are returning to the country. Their efforts are now focused on helping the international community. In recent days, both Italy and Spain have received a large number of medical products and aid.

So, how will coronavirus change us? Could altruism and global support be a positive outcome of it all?

A more united society in the future?

One of the last crises the world experienced was that of 9/11. Despite the fact that it occurred on American soil, it had a global impact.

What came out of it was a greater feeling of patriotism in some countries and greater radicalization in others. Antagonism arose, and the consequences of that event are still evident in our society and geopolitics. However, what we’re experiencing with the coronavirus is very different.

In this case, there’s only one common enemy – a microscopic one. In this current context, ethnicities, races, religions, social position, and gender count for nothing. We’re all equally vulnerable. One thing this crisis can help us do is finally resolve our differences and become a more united and committed society.

We’ll learn to value what’s truly important

Let’s remember the crisis of 2008. That global financial crisis caused governments from practically all over the world to come to the rescue of the banks. What were the consequences of that decision? The rich got richer and the poor tried to survive in far worse conditions.

People’s social rights were cut. One of the most affected sectors was undoubtedly the health sector: fewer hospital beds, less investment, less staff, and the privatization of many services.

What we’ve experienced with the coronavirus could cause us to rethink all of this. We’ve learned that no society can call itself advanced, or even civilized, if it doesn’t have a strong health system.

This perspective of post-modern neoliberalism, in which the economy is liberalized and only the strongest survive, can change. Perhaps we’ll start to reassess what’s really important: people, health care, and the workers who work hard to make sure we have food.

An exercise in humility: we’re not as strong as we thought we were

What we’ve experienced with the coronavirus crisis can leave a real legacy for the human race. Our society could suffer from post-traumatic stress. It’s possible that the fear of infection will ever remain in our minds, and, as a result, we may well develop obsessive-compulsive behaviors We’ll also spend months and years feeling the emptiness that the people we’ve lost have left behind.

The post-coronavirus days are going to be tough. We’ve realized that we’re not as strong as we thought we were. We’re not immune to these unforeseen events that can send us to the breaking point.

Perhaps you can use these days of confinement to reflect. How will coronavirus change us? How will it change you?

You have to realize that life is fleeting and a tremendously precious commodity. Learn to live it in a slow but real way, loving those around us. Take care of this planet and leave a great legacy for the generations to come. You should also learn how to value the health system.

The COVID-19 crisis will pass, but you must be prepared so that something like this doesn’t affect you in the same way in the future.