What markers will the COVID-19 crisis leave on society?
Much like September 11th and the Financial Crisis of 2008, behavioral experts believe COVID-19 will leave a psychological or emotional marker. And those markers will predict how we will act for weeks, years, decades, or in some cases, the rest of our lives.
My dad, now 92-years old, still displays instincts rooted in him during the Great Depression. No matter how successful he may be at any point in his life, he remains cautious with money, fiercely debt-averse, and tends to hold onto random items he might need one day.
Having nothing and lived firsthand the feeling the uncertainty of what tomorrow holds – the most significant shared event in his lifetime – formed how his mind processed his decisions to this day.
My dad once bought a belt, absent a buckle for $4.
Holding the brown strip up to him, I asked him why he would spend money on something he could not use.
“It is a quality piece of material,” he said. “I’m sure I have an old buckle on a worn-out belt around here I can figure out how to put on it.”
His delivery was as flat as if he was explaining to me which horizon the sun would rise the next morning.
Decades of comfort will never change my dad’s mindset of what the raw feeling of having nothing is.
So with COVID-19 impacting our society, what markers will become imbedded into our collective and individual psyche going forward?
To this day, September 11th always revisits our minds when boarding a plane or see an unattended bag beneath a bench. And the following the Financial Crisis of 2008, over the top displays of wealth were no longer viewed with admiration, but rather as insensitive out of touch.
So what will COVID-19 leave behind – or more accurately – accompany us into the future?
Experts say it takes 2-weeks of behavior to form hold in our minds. So what will our new patterns of social distancing, working remote, or learning to not run to the store every day do to us? Will we ever feel the same about shaking hands with a stranger or offering a hug to someone we barely know in pain? Will we ever feel comfortable sitting in a seat next to a stranger at the movie theater or in the tightly clustered seats of an airplane?
Some emotional markers will fade. Others, like my dad’s childhood, remain close to the surface, hiding around the corner whenever he makes a decision. The question is, which ones will we take forward, and for how long?
There are a few changes I hope people take away from this COVID-19 crisis. I see more people outside, walking, and children playing in yards. I also see people checking in on family and friends. And if anything, we are learning to slow down a bit, less obsessed with consumption and self-aggrandizing behavior on social media.
But as for me buying belts without buckles, I’ll keep you posted.