COVID-19 has necessitated various changes in how we gather socially, and especially in how we attend various cultural events such as workshops, concerts, conferences, work meetings, classes, etc. It seems inevitable that such changes, even if they may not be permanent, will impact our generation moving forward. It may also continue to impact the ways we gather socially and for events for much of our future.
At the moment, we can hope that the way people come together for concerts, jobs, conferences, parties and other events will largely go back to normal in the future, so that one day soon we can live our lives much the same as we did before March 2020.
But perhaps people will keep doing temperature screenings at the doors of certain events or locations to screen out potentially ill people from entering places where they would be in close contact with others. Perhaps other permanent alterations will linger.
Sports will be changed, possibly for a long time. When will fans be allowed back in the stands at full capacity? At NMU, when will the Berry Events Center be sold out for a hockey game against Michigan Tech again? Just eight months ago, we would never have wondered about these things. Now it’s our lifestyle, and it’ll be interesting going forward to see how long it will last.
Concerts are another event many people miss, and we find ourselves concerned about the arts community and how it will be able to sustain itself as quarantine continues. The performing arts are at a huge disadvantage and many performers are out of work and have been for months, with no end of unemployment in sight. We worry about our local arts community and want to see them supported in any way possible. This is not any easy time for creatives.
Even for traditional studio artists who may have extra time to work on art, motivation and inspiration is certainly at an all-time low, and audiences aren’t motivated to view artwork at this time either. Traditional galleries and exhibitions cannot be held.
Considering more informal social gatherings, it seems we have been permanently altered as a society in terms of what is considered the ‘norm’ in social settings. The social factor has been altered, and people have picked up new ways. Instead of partying, some people have had to learn how to just have fun by themselves, or with just a few others, for once.
Thinking ahead, as many of us look at moving to a new place and getting careers in the next couple years, we worry about the potential for making new friends. Social outings for shopping, frequenting local cafes, malls and restaurants, going out to see live performances, being part of social groups—all of these things have become close to unthinkable now. Never before did we think of these activities as dangerous and a public health concern. If we continue to work in mostly remote settings, and we are unable to frequent social places without worrying, how will we develop healthy social circles?
In some ways, for our generation, this restriction has caused us to figure out who was really important to us. When you’re quarantining, or just trying to keep your circle small, you really think twice about seeing anyone. You have to ask yourself, ‘what is my risk level?’
The fear we have all experienced, as well as the forced isolation, have made many of us develop more appreciation for human contact. We hope that going forward, people will just be more appreciative of each other.
Perhaps the continuing impacts of the pandemic on our generation’s psyche will reveal itself in visible ways, much like the impact of the Great Depression impacted many of our grandparents, who save everything and refuse to put their money in a bank.
Similarly, many of us will be wearing masks in public because we are afraid of getting sick. We have become much more aware as a population how viruses work and how they spread. This knowledge is going to stay with us for the rest of our lives and because of it, the world will look a lot different. People who have never cleaned or sanitized their counter now do so, and that urge to decontaminate surfaces will likely stay with us. Many of us automatically follow social distancing guidelines and feel strange when we watch TV shows depicting people behaving as we would have before March. Perhaps we will always flinch a little when we see two characters hug on screen, or get just a little too close to one another.
As we think about these potential impacts, we must remember that change is always alarming. But for many generations of human beings, from grandparents in the Great Depression, to early settlers of the U.S. who immigrated to a new continent whether by choice or by force, or Native ancestors who were decimated by disease and displaced, to the survivors of the Black Plague in Europe, and beyond into history, change has always been a fact of life. Change is inevitable.
Change comes, and for many it is terrifying. But after a while, you don’t notice that you’re living in a new norm. We all just need a little reassurance and to be kind to one another. At the least, we’ve all learned a bit about ourselves if nothing else. It’s important to remember why we’re making these changes in our lives, for the good of our community.
Editor’s Note: The North Wind is committed to offering a free and open public forum of ideas, publishing a wide range of viewpoints to accurately represent the NMU student body. This is an editorial, written by the North Wind Editorial Board in its entirety. It reflects the majority views of the individuals who make up the editorial staff of the North Wind. It is the policy of the Editorial Board not to endorse candidates for any political office, in order to avoid aligning this public forum with particular political organizations.