MORE IDEAS FROM THE ARTICLE
Social isolation, as seen in many experiments, can have adverse effects on the mental health of a person, even leading to premature death.
Friendly behaviour with strangers makes us feel good about ourselves, and if strangers inhibit signs of trustworthiness, it leads to better overall health and individual wellbeing.
Social interactions with strangers with a feeling of compassion, generosity and kindness has powerful and positive effects on the entire society.
In spite of the fact that wearing a mask makes our connections weaker due to less visibility of the face, one still needs the interrelation with others in these uncertain times of death, fear and loss.
We naturally have more empathy for people closer to us. Our empathy and affinity for others decline the further people are from us.
But our natural empathy for those closer and more similar to us can be used to provoke antipathy towards those who are not like us. Politicians and activists often play to the idea of "us and them," deploying empathy and identifiable victims to make a political case.
It is not surprising that kindness and altruism should impact our physical wellbeing. People are immensely social. When we are interconnected and are truly useful to others, it influences our wellbeing.
During the first half of 2020, Britons donated £800m more to charity, half of Americans have recently checked on their elderly or sick neighbours. Americans and Australians left teddybears in their windows to cheer up children. A French florist placed 400 bouquets on cars of hospital staff.
When we access the lives of people around us, we are essentially comparing ourselves with them, using them as a benchmark to how our lives are going. If they are suffering, we feel secure and happy. If the people we watch are having a gala time, we get envious or motivated but learn new things we didn’t know before. We are basically picking up the cues and learning the rules of life.
It is a way of coping with the unique challenges and constraints of the current times, making sense of the world in flux.