Pandemic: How we get closer in friendships – health and nutrition

Friends have not been able to meet for months, and meeting in large groups is still difficult for many: Corona has an impact on friendships. How do they meet again?

Keep your distance: This has been the order of the day since the beginning of 2020, since the coronavirus took over the airways and life. Even with close friends, they stayed at least two arms apart or did not meet in person. Instead, people toasted the mosaics on the screen and shared joy and sorrow via video conference.

Or they didn’t see each other at all: In a representative survey conducted as part of the Yougov-Cambridge Globalism Project, almost a third of respondents said their relationship with their friends had been less close since the coronavirus pandemic. Strict contact restrictions no longer apply at the moment, but it’s still not that easy to go back to the old closeness with friends.

In times of need, people usually come together

Friendship researcher Horst Heidbrink is not surprised. “There is something paradoxical about the pandemic,” says the psychologist, who teaches at the Fernuniversität Hagen. In emergencies, people usually came closer. “But during the pandemic, they told us: if you want to do something nice for your friends, you won’t see them anymore,” explains Heidbrink.
Café and leisure center: glue for social interaction
Above all, non-binding friendships and acquaintances would have suffered, contact with fellow athletes at the gym, for example, with co-workers with whom you usually went for an espresso at the corner cafe before the pandemic, or with playmates. at Doppelkopf in der Bar. “The pandemic has made it clear how important such places are for social interaction,” says Heidbrink.

But sports clubs, gyms, restaurants and bars were closed for a long time. If you go there again now, you won’t necessarily meet the same people as before the pandemic. Feeling that you are in good hands, because you can be sure that you will meet familiar faces: this feeling must be developed again now, if your favorite places still exist.

Maybe there are new favorite places and maybe new friends. Not all friendships are worth maintaining, it is possible that a certain union was just a habit; that too may have become obvious as a result of the pandemic. And it definitely opens up possibilities for rearranging the circle of friends.
It’s hard to consciously end a friendship, to tell the other person that you no longer value spending so much time together. It’s easier to let a friendship end little by little if we don’t see each other anymore.

Physical closeness has been considered dangerous since Corona

Making new acquaintances and reviving old friendships can be more difficult in the conditions of an endless pandemic because an essential factor is missing: the once-everyday physical closeness, the welcoming kiss on the cheeks, the encouraging pat on the back, the friendliness. Hugs take effort.

“Interpersonal contact is suddenly seen as a risk to one’s own health and the health of others,” says Romy Simon. The sociologist conducts research at the Technical University of Dresden on social networks, among other things.
Proximity is a very decisive aspect for its cohesion. “When people touch, the so-called bonding hormone oxytocin is released,” says sociologist Romy Simon. “It promotes trust and empathy between people.” This effect cannot be replaced by digital contacts through the screen.

The vaccination debate has strained many friendships

Friendships may also have suffered due to different views on the subject of contact restrictions and corona vaccination. The fact that friends had different views on different topics: “That was also the case before Corona”, says friendship researcher Heidbrink. “But if friendship was important to you, then you found a way and excluded these topics.” In relation to Corona, it was more difficult “because it determined behavior.”

Romy Simon sees the best chance of overcoming such breakups in long-term friendships “that have also experienced other breakups.” Anyone who has already successfully readjusted their relationship with each other is now in a better position to approach others and accept different positions.

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