WILMINGTON — These days of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic would have been even more psychologically detrimental from a social interaction viewpoint had it occurred before the prevalence of the iPhones, the Internet and social media.
So says Wilmington College’s Dr. Victoria DeSensi, who noted that, at least based upon anecdotal evidence, people seem to be connecting with others now more than ever.
“We are social animals,” said DeSensi, associate professor of psychology, “I think if this pandemic had taken place 15 to 20 years ago — in a world not yet designed for countless varieties of telecommunications — it would have been much more socially devastating.”
She called upon persons to reach out, electronically or in another safe way, to family, friends and neighbors — “whomever we can help calm or bring joy, and whomever can help calm or bring joy to us.” She cautioned not to make conversations entirely centered upon the pandemic and its health and economic ramifications.
DeSensi is especially concerned that those who live alone or in households “devoid of affectionate contact” might be struggling in isolation.
“My heart hurts the most when I think of the many individuals who have or will contract the virus and will not be able to benefit from the healing powers of a loving human touch,” she added.
The professor said it’s simply human nature to fear the unknown and feel threatened by the possibility of oneself or a loved one contracting the deadly virus. Conversely, she lamented that some individuals have “engaged the psychological coping mechanism” of denial. “You hear stories of people being so deep in denial that, instead of adhering to social distancing guidelines, they brazenly come into contact with others.”
“Not only is this behavior socially irresponsible, but it ironically makes what was an existential threat to that individual a much more realistic threat,” she added.
In searching for any silver lining to the crisis, DeSensi believes some personality types can actually thrive in the unpredictability of a pandemic that forces social isolation.
“Some people are highly conscientious and thrive on predictability and routines, while others are essentially bored by routines and may actually find the current upheaval of everyday routines to be thrilling and refreshing,” she said.
“Just looking out the window into your neighborhood on a sunny day, I am willing to bet you will notice far more of your neighbors getting fresh air and exercise than usual,” she said. “This might also be a welcome opportunity for some people to finally get to know their neighbors — albeit, from six feet apart!”