How we are now strengthening our interpersonal relationships

Woman at the window

The coronavirus turns our lives upside down - especially our social ones. However, our editor Sarah Thiele sees this as an opportunity for us humans and our future
The first warm rays of the sun brush my face. I can smell it and I continue to stretch my head over the balcony railing. From the shadow further into the light. Bright spots dance in front of my closed lids. For a moment I want to notice all of this. The morning. The world out there. The people who are missing. The cool wind, the quieter main street now, the rustling of the trees that I could never hear before - an oddly peaceful urban silence. When I open my eyes, I see a man across the street. He is also standing on his balcony, holding a cup in his hand and looking at me. I smile, he smiles back, we nod. There is a connection for a moment. No romantic, no sexual, it's an innocent "I see you. And that's nice. Although I don't know you."

So now I start my days in the home office. It's been the reality of many people since Covid-19. The coronavirus brings with it great suffering, uncertainty, and fear - but it has also achieved something that we thought only a second big bang could do: unplug our globalized existence, which focuses on performance, selfishness, and consumption. The world is literally holding your breath. Our life as we knew it was lifted off its hinges within a few weeks. Nothing works anymore. Especially when it comes to social interactions.

Future researcher sees opportunity in the crisis
"There are historical moments when the direction of future change. We call bifurcations. Or deep crises. These times are now," explains the trend and future researcher Matthias Horx (, And that there would also be an opportunity in this crisis. Because we humans alone decide how we want to live after Corona. That may sound like a bad joke when you think of quarantine, forced isolation and buying hamsters. And it is true, physically we are currently experiencing a divergence instead of the usual coexistence. However, we are moving closer together mentally than ever before. We were physically closer to pre-corona, but we were usually in our heads with ourselves. We consumed passive and excessive contacts without understanding their value. Now we are aware of interactions again, we appreciate them. That is why we understand, although we cannot spontaneously meet up with friends: they are still there. To greet the first sunny days of the year with them and an Aperol - via Skype, social media and the many other ways that we now use for active communication. If the phone rings now, we'll answer it. A few weeks ago, we would have waited annoyed for the caller to give up and then continue to look for superficial diversions on Instagram.

The values ​​are shifted. Selfishness and Darwinian thinking - traits that were previously very popular in the patriarchal world - are of no help when it comes to running entire companies from the living room, or when parents' concerns about the future take over. Skills such as commitment, courtesy, empathy and teamwork experience momentum. We can speak more freely about fears because we are no longer labeled as weak. On the contrary, this disclosure of our own emotions brings us together.

At the Ruhr University Bochum, the happiness researcher Julia Krasko and her team are currently carrying out a study that deals with the social effects of the coronavirus. According to the expert, there is a chance that the extreme situation will bring people closer together: "It is quite possible that close relationships become even stronger and loose relationships lose importance."

Friends and family are becoming more important again
It's strange how quickly pictures of "Outfits of the Day" and luxury goods have lost their shine, how indispensable all-seeing and being seen has become - now that it's about existence and one's own security here in the global north. It is a lesson that we should take seriously. Because as disturbing as this time may be, it does us a service: it makes the meaning of family and friends clear to us again, it shows that no one is above another - and we are not above nature. All of this should go without saying, but in the whirlpool of selfishness, self-staging, consumption, and stress it has fallen behind. "Many will use this time to invest in relationships, many will actively do something to maintain contact," says happiness researcher Julia Krasko.

But not only the relationships with the neighbors could become closer again. There is now also an opportunity for global solidarity. This is probably best observed in Italy, where millions of people had to stay at home for weeks. For days they organized balcony concerts through online calls.

The aversion to the unpleasant neighbor is suddenly forgotten, suddenly there is no mental distance between strangers. And with friends, partners, family, we are alone together at this time, which looks like the plot of a disaster film. It is a collective bond that works across national borders, even if they are closed for the first time in the lives of millennials and Gen Z. Because all over the world, people are now facing the same challenges that can only be mastered together. The important thing here is not to let the fear of losing your privilege gain the upper hand.

In his future vision for the time after Corona, futurologist Matthias Horx outlines the following: "Crises mainly work by dissolving old phenomena […] The decisive factor was that people could remain solitary and constructive despite radical restrictions: human-social intelligence. "

I want to believe that we can do it. And don't forget it as soon as life goes back to normal. I hold on to this wish and think about it every morning when I see my neighbor, whose son and wife I have already met. Across the street.
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