Christina Park / CAMS 12th Grade
A couple weeks ago, my family happened to come across a few of my dad’s coworkers at one of our local farmer’s markets.
We were all vaccinated and so were they, but there was this awkward moment of questioning whether we should shake hands, elbow bump, or just wave from six feet away.
The age-old tradition of shaking hands has become a casualty of the pandemic, but as students return to school, workers return to the office, and more activities shift from Zoom settings to in-person, many have pondered this exact question: to shake or not to shake?
Shaking hands is just one of the many forms of human interaction that have been forced to a halt during the global coronavirus outbreak. High fives, hugs, and the little points of contact that we had once shared suddenly seems to be a thing of the past. With many returning to in-person activities, seeking to rebuild their social lives, experts believe that some degree of social touch will disappear permanently as a corollary of the pandemic.
Even after the pandemic ends, Dr. Anthony Fauci in an interview with the Wall Street Journal podcast warned, “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again.” Though there is no consensus as to what will replace social touch, there is little dispute that social interactions are going to start feeling really weird.
During the pandemic, even if an individual didn’t appreciate social touch, it was inevitable to start noticing that something was missing. “Touching acquaintances and strangers serves an evolutionary purpose,” says Mandy Oaklander of TIME magazine. While we use language and other social cues to foster connections with others, touch is just as important.
Touch allows people to make allies and maintain relationships all while reducing aggression and spreading good feelings with others. It also stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin, nicknamed the “love hormone” which promotes bonding and closeness with others.
Having been deprived of this, we as a society must move to embrace touch-free alternatives.
While the age-old tradition cannot be replaced overnight, experts believe that we must learn to verbalize our sentiments, ones that we would normally express with touch. Placing a hand on someone’s shoulder or offering a hug often feels easier or more natural than finding the right words, but this will soon become the new normal. Though it is awkward and will be awkward for a while, being forced to voice these feelings might turn us into better communicators. Resuming handshakes is a big step. Until it is safe to do so, we must work on improving our communications skills and finding alternatives to keep ourselves and loved ones safe and comfortable.
<Christina Park / CAMS 12th Grade