“People want to be part of something larger than themselves. They want to be part of something they’re really proud of, that they’ll fight for, sacrifice for, that they trust.”
— Howard Schultz
By: Mark Glennon*
A massive social experiment is underway. How long will people stay locked up before more say, “Oh, the hell with it. I’m going out to live life as I want it.” It’s an issue that may become serious the longer shut-downs are in place.
Most people are social creatures. They love, more than they perhaps knew, their conventions, schools, churches, restaurants, concerts, parties, clubs, sports and all the rest. It’s part of the fabric of their existence.
They also like to work. Well, not everybody, but for most, work brings not just a paycheck but satisfaction and meaning. Many take pride in where they work and who they work with. “Everybody wants to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Starbucks’ founder Howard Schultz said, and he built the company’s culture on that principle. “They want to be part of something they’re really proud of, that they’ll fight for, sacrifice for, that they trust.”
I sense that social distancing has unleashed another virus: cabin fever. It’s palpable, and it’s now compounded by spring fever.
We’re feeling suffocated by deprivation of our usual social stimulants. It’s too damn quiet. In my family, everybody overslept today, even my dog. He usually wakes me up by 6:30 if the noise and bustle haven’t. Not today. I’d like nothing more than to go to a crowded baseball game or restaurant.
Young people – no surprise – are feeling it worst. The Wall Street Journal has a great article Tuesday about how many of them are rebelling against social distancing, worldwide.
“Across Europe, where social life is shutting down faster than in the U.S., a divide is spreading between the young, many of whom say they don’t fear the virus, and their elders” says the Journal. “They’re preventing us from living,” said a 30-year-old statistician in France. “Life goes on,” said a young Hong Konger. Some, knowing they face little risk from Wuhan virus, call it the “Boomer Remover.” They’re just kidding, I hope.
And some of all ages question whether we’ve overreacted to the virus. The economic costs are indeed staggering and certain to induce a recession. “But where are all the deaths?” ask some. The number worldwide is officially about 8,000 – not much, so far. But that number is soaring quickly. Personally, I think the restraints in place are about right in light of the very dire projections for those numbers, but I am not surprised by the skepticism and I am keeping an open mind about the right policy. We need more data. On that matter, see this new article on how inadequate our current numbers are. We are driving blind.
Maybe sociologists somewhere have studied how people reacted under similar limitations. Maybe particular places have gone through it during wartime or other epidemics. China’s experience isolating people to stop the virus doesn’t count because it was forced, and Americans may or may not react as other cultures will to restrictions they, too, are facing.
It will be interesting to see.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.