One social trend has been driven faster than any other this year by the corona pandemic:
The growing dispersion and separation of people into smaller groups or units that experience completely different realities.
Even before corona, groups on social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn, or in messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram or Twitter, increased the fragmentation of our society:
– Formerly communal sources of information such as public or large private broadcasting services are increasingly being replaced by topic- or opinion-oriented news groups. The sources of information here are often opaque, irrelevant, or replaced entirely by personal expressions of opinion (or even lies).
- Instead of true debates and deep discussions with people who think differently, people post superficial comments and emotional reactions in their “echo chambers”
- An increasing number of people is deliberately using the opportunity to express themselves anonymously and thus – without having to reckon with consequences – in a polemicizing, lurid or even inflammatory manner. They often even receive approval and recognition from members of the same news group
Now, we have added social distancing, working from home, and the suffering the greatest consequences of lockdowns by only parts of the population and sectors of the industries:
- Residents of nursing homes and patients in hospitals suffer acute loneliness in moments when contact with others is most important
- Hospital and nursing staff, those who work in governmental health offices and in warehouses or package distribution for large logistics companies, are now shouldering even more work than they had to before the pandemic – without more personnel or time
- The entire tourism and event sectors, gastronomy, art, culture and in-company training have generated virtually no income since March
- The self-employed, micro and small businesses – and generally the most financially vulnerable in our society – are suffering massive income losses and threats to their livelihoods
At the same time, Amazon and other Internet shopping platforms, online communication and collaboration tech companies, and healthcare manufacturers are making unprecedented profits. Many employees work from home now but suffer no financial loss.
So, the burden of lockdowns to protect the most vulnerable in our society regarding their health is distributed extremely unevenly!
There are enough studies to prove that the degree of empathy decreases with increasing distance from the affected. That is, the less contact we have with those who experience suffering, to whom something is attributed because of their origin, appearance, or the like (immigrants, refugees, women…), the less empathy we have with them. Parallely, we give greater importance to our own problems or perceived limitations, because “everyone” around us (i.e. in our “echo chambers”) is experiencing the same thing!
It is time to ask ourselves some questions:
- How great is my sacrifice because of the pandemic and safety measures: Is it simply inconvenient or am I really missing something essential?
- How do I separate myself from others: Where am I getting my information from, who am I sharing information or still have discussions with?
- How do I connect and show empathy: Who can I contact who can’t do it by themselves (anymore) in these circumstances, how do I enliven my relationships with others right now and get truly involved with them?
Let’s use the time of the holidays and the cold season to bring more warmth back into our society through concrete actions!