The squeaks of shoes over tiles, the clicks and slams of lockers and the excitement of students echoing through the halls. All things Daniel Pearl Magnet High School students will get the chance to hear soon enough. With COVID-19 cases lowering, the chances of fully returning to on-campus learning have risen but so have students’ social anxieties.
“[My social skills] are even worse than they were before,” sophomore Jessica Witt said. “I’m already a pretty anxious person when it comes to interacting with people, especially online. I’m really bad at texting and it makes me anxious so automatically I don’t talk with people that often.”
According to an article from Parade, social distancing has changed the way people socialize almost entirely. It’s been said that people have acquired new social skills, more accustomed to staying at home, like “video call etiquette” and “staying six feet away from someone while grocery shopping.”
Being quarantined for over a year has completely rewritten what we know as the social norm and with this, people have begun to worry their social behaviors might change once the pandemic is over.
“It’s going to be a bit awkward at first,” sophomore Dashiell Caloroso said. “There are so many people I haven’t seen in over a year so how I used to interact with people will have to come back to me.”
When it comes to mental health, social anxiety isn’t the only thing people have fallen victim to during the pandemic. According to the University of California, quarantine has caused extra stress, depression and anxiety, which have compelled people to avoid interacting with others altogether. It’s also caused feelings of being overwhelmed, lacking energy and clinging to solitude in an effort to feel more comfortable. All these things are suspected to stick with some even after quarantine ends.
“I found myself feeling a lot more lonely,” junior William Myers said. “At school, I feel like I actually have people I can be around and trust with everything but [that feeling] has become a lot [rarer].”
When it comes to DPMHS students, some are worried that once the school has completely opened back up to the student body in the fall, they won’t be able to keep up with their work since they’re now used to doing it from home. They also worry that they won’t be able to get too close to people since they’ve been social distancing for so long, they won’t know how to keep up a conversation or even remember how they used to talk to each other at all.
“By now, we’ve probably forgotten how to socialize all-together,” Caloroso said. “We might’ve honestly just forgotten what to talk about with each other and who’s interested in what.”
Everyone’s going to have a bit of social anxiety once this pandemic is over. Research suggests that humans tend to be “more self-conscious than necessary in new social situations.” Despite that, DPMHS staff are trying their best to help students and show them that social anxiety is normal.
“[We] need to let kids know at the beginning of the school year that this is a safe place and we know it’s going to be an adjustment getting back into our routine,” DPMHS psychiatric social worker Joanne Tuell said. “We’re there to help [students] manage this transition back to our campus.”
DPMHS students and staff are looking ahead. Regardless of the possible circumstances, they believe this upcoming semester will bring students the socialization and mental health support they need.
“I’m excited to meet all of the people,” Myers said. “It’ll feel unnatural at [first] but I can’t wait to just hang out with everybody like I used to in person.”