Communication as a whole has been severely affected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Protective measures, such as social distancing, have been essential to ease the fight against the virus. COVID-19 pose challenges to daily communication. What once was ordinary – to shakes hands, hug, and smile – has now become a thing of the past.
Greetings from six feet away, elbow bumps, and a swift hand over the heart motion along with a head nod, have now become the new norm. Whether in person or virtually, some facial expressions can’t be seen, which can sometimes lead to messages being misinterpreted. Face masks, particularly, muffle voices and cover facial expressions that ease comprehension during in-person communication.
The increasing rates of COVID-19 infection pushed physicians and health experts to recommend wearing facemasks during the pandemic. As previous studies show, how masks may reduce the transmission of viruses during such times. This measure combined with handwashing, sanitizing throughout the day, and social distancing, helps in slowing the spread of the virus and decreasing its transmission.
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During mandatory quarantine, many individuals have worked from home with little to no face-to-face interactions. Business meetings have gone from walking into the board room to signing on virtually, thanks to Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and philippe other virtual communication platforms. On a positive note, many are becoming better at using technology, which may be more beneficial moving forward.
Communication in the school system has had a dramatic change as well. Students are now learning how to navigate their daily learning tasks via online platforms. Young children have had to learn how to type and use a computer.
The days of laughter in the cafeteria while sitting beside best friends, have come to a halt. Gym class has even taken a turn as teachers have had to give details of various exercises and games virtually.
Educators have had to pivot dramatically as teaching styles have had to be reevaluated and changed. Teachers who are more hands-on have had to redesign a year’s worth of lesson plans to include a virtual way of learning. Educators and school staff have had to continuously rearrange procedures and policies.
Not only have the professional and educational lives of many taken a turn but everyone’s personal life has been altered one way or another. Holidays and family gatherings have been digitalized. Families are keeping up with each other on social media now more than ever. Family game nights are taking place on Zoom and through Facebook groups versus meeting in person.
Trying to find a way to complete their professional tasks at home while their children are in class in the other room. Parents have had to step in and become part-time teachers and tutors. Children spending days at a time with their parents and siblings in the house has caused an intolerable amount of tension between families.
Tim Levine, Ph.D., chair and distinguished professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Communication Studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says “health-wise, social distancing is for the best overall; but social isolation is not healthy in the long term.”