The coronavirus is set to cause a loneliness epidemic.
Social distancing is the most effective way to reduce community spread. That means many community spaces like CultureHouse have had to make the difficult decision to close their doors. While we believe our temporary closure is the right decision, we also take seriously the negative impacts of closing social infrastructure and are working to address those impacts.
As Ezra Klein reported in Vox, “just as the coronavirus fallout threatens to cause an economic recession, it’s also going to cause what we might call a ‘social recession’: a collapse in social contact that is particularly hard on the populations most vulnerable to isolation and loneliness.” This social recession needs to be taken seriously. A National Academies of Sciences report found that “social isolation has been associated with a significantly increased risk of premature mortality from all causes”. Additionally, there is a clearly documented relationship between social isolation, depression, and anxiety.
Fostering social contact without physical contact is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.
Virtual communication, especially video conferencing and phone calls, can be a powerful tool at maintaining social networks at a physical distance. This is not a perfect solution — those most at risk of social isolation are also often those with least access to technology. However, we believe it’s still an avenue worth pursuing. We encourage you to use virtual communication to stay connected with the people in your life, and to check in on your community members who might be having a particularly hard time.
While our Harvard and Kendall pop-ups are closed, we’re launching a new virtual pop-up, CultureCloud. Rather than filling a commercial vacancy, we’re hoping to fill some of the vacancies in your schedule where community gatherings used to be. We’ll be live-streaming events, supporting local organizations, and providing opportunities for people to connect. We hope you’ll join us in our digital living room sometime soon.