As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the large number of people currently in quarantine poses an unprecedented challenge for humanity: living in isolation represents a unique and unexplored threat to us that goes against our basic connecting human.
In an essay published in the journal Current Biology, a team of researchers argues that living in quarantine and separating from each other contradicts the need to unite in difficult times. It is common to accuse people who do not comply with isolation as irrational and irresponsible, or even to assume that they ignore the threat. While this may be true, “knowing the threat is perfectly compatible with seeking the company of friends and loved ones,” they explain in the article. “Being with others and getting, but also providing social support, is how we deal with stress. The growing threat is only likely to reinforce this social inclination.” Even in the absence of threat, estrangement is not natural. Humans, like other primates, stay close to building and maintaining social ties. The search for contact can be a “natural” impulse of our physiology in response to stress, but not only that: it constitutes our baseline. Our brains do not respond positively to their presence, but negatively to their loss.
This is not to say that quarantines should be lifted just so that people can come together, as doing so would be unimaginably dangerous from a public health point of view. However, if it focuses on the need for better access to tools that allow people to join, such as better accessibility to high-speed Internet or specific platforms that people can use to socialize.” Internet access and communication are a priority, especially when the most vulnerable coincide with the least technologically connected,” they conclude. In this note: