Some say that fear of the COVID-19 pandemic is as contagious as the virus. Yes, scientists have studied social networks and brain imaging and have found that fear can be passed from person to person. When people say fear is contagious, they mean that we respond to the emotions we see in others. But if fear is contagious, other emotions may be too. That’s where positive, supportive social connection comes in.
Have you ever noticed thatwhen you smile at someone, they are likely to smile back?You could say the smile is contagious. Well, so too are calm and kindness. Like the smile, good feelings and goodwill can literally be passed on.
It may be that the internet and social mediacan spread fear and anxiety faster and further than was everpossible before.But social media also give us opportunities to reach out to each other in positive ways, and to spread kindness.
There are now countless examples of the spread of social connection that are being shared in the traditional news, and on social media channels. For example, instead of scaremongering, Canadians are at the forefront of acare-mongering movement both on social media, and in real life. This movement has seen the creation of Facebook groups where people who are able to give help, are coming together with people who need it. These are also places to feature acts of goodwill that people are seeing in their communities.
Although we may have developed new habits of social distancing, a movement has emerged to reframe social distancing as “physical distancing + social connection.”In other words, in a time of social distancing, this only means we should be distancing physically. This is definitely not the time to isolate socially.See an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail by CMHA National CEO Margaret Eaton on the need to spread social connectionhere. We can model care and support for each other, and we are doing just that.
This spring has been a time of distancing. But as we have seen, social connection and emotional closeness have survived. And maybeeven flourished. That’s because it’s not just virus and fear that can be spread. Kindness and calm can be catching too.