As I type from my kitchen island on a Thursday in the middle of the day (working from home, pandemic-style) I am producing what will be my 400th Psychology Today post. A lot has happened in my life and in the world since I started blogging here in 2013. Without question, the COVID pandemic stands as perhaps the most conspicuous and (for many of us) unexpected event that we have collectively encountered during this time.
The adverse consequences associated with the pandemic are obvious. Millions of people from all around the world have tragically died as a result of COVID. Entire industries have been decimated. Education around the world has been dramatically affected. Millions have lost their jobs and homes. And the whole thing has, tragically, become highly politicized, exacerbating already dramatic political fissures. And more.
People who know me well know that I generally try to keep things positive. With this in mind, here are ten outcomes of the pandemic that actually are having positive outcomes and that will, hopefully, continue to have positive outcomes into our shared future.
1. Staying connected across miles.
Humans did not evolve to be separated from kin and other loved ones by thousands of miles (see Evolutionary Psychology 101 for a discussion of this). My family, for instance, is dispersed across New York, New Jersey, Florida, and California. For members of a species that evolved to be close to kin, this is rough.
During the pandemic, people have been more encouraged than ever to reach out to family. People are having regular ZOOM meetings with family. People are texting family members regularly. People are checking on one another with seemingly increased care and compassion. And this is a good thing.
2. Harnessing technology for good.
While I have written extensively about the dark side of technology, the pandemic has shown us many bright facets that modern technology holds. It has become easier than ever to communicate with others. In many cases, technology has improved at lightning speed to make virtual meetings productive, efficient, and legitimate. And these improvements in such technologies will surely allow us, moving forward, to have more options for getting people together for all kinds of purposes.
3. Seeing life in a bigger frame.
The pandemic has definitely given all of us pause. I still get the chills when I go into a business and see all the tables and chairs pushed to the side or see all of my students socially distanced in a giant lecture hall and wearing masks. The immediate changes in our daily lives have been so deeply dramatic. And this fact has the capacity to have us see life in a bigger frame as we move toward the other side of the pandemic.
4. Learning new skills.
Many people chose to take up new skills and hobbies during the pandemic. People are learning how to paint with watercolors, write poetry, speak other languages, and more. And these skills and interests will certainly transcend the pandemic.
5. Appreciating nature.
As someone who has always been an avid hiker, the abrupt change in the appreciation of nature that so many people have experienced has been obvious. Trailheads near me that usually have one or two parked cars will, these days, often be overflowing. The trails are filled with people who are tired of being cooped up and who are ready to adventure into the mountains. Humans are naturally biophilic, having a natural inclination toward the natural world (see Wilson, 1984). For so many of us, the pandemic has unleashed this beautiful facet of the human experience.
6. Appreciating science.
The vaccines were developed to completion within about a year. Think about that. For this kind of highly technical work, one year truly is record-speed. During the pandemic, scientists across the world have raced to enhance our understanding of all facets of the virus and the nature of its spread. If ever there were a time to pause and appreciate science, that time is now.