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Is life post-COVID making people feel behind?

Three years ago, students around the world returned to semi-normal classes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in the post-pandemic era, ripple effects are being felt, and the consequences may be more severe than anticipated. 


“Two weeks off from school; I can’t wait to do nothing in my bed all day!” was a common sentiment on Mar. 13, 2020, as schools around the country closed for what they called ‘Coronavirus.’ 


But then it became months of isolation. The extreme boredom and lack of willpower set in, and the months ached along as if they were years. Time is all relative when circumstances are altered as Ruth Ogden, psychology professor in the U.K notes, “We’re aware of the fragility of time. We’re aware of what happens when your time to do the things you want is taken away from you.” 


Hundreds of thousands of cases and thousands of deaths were being racked up in the United States every day. The two weeks turned into two months, two semesters, two years. The polarizing person-to-person politics of the mask mandate divided the middle and lower class while both parties dove further into poverty. Over 60% of the country now fights from paycheck to paycheck according to CNBC.  


While the average American suffered, those who could afford to survive the pandemic filled their plates with another helping. The wealth held by U.S. billionaires grew by 70% during the pandemic and was up $2.1 trillion at its peak. 745 United States citizens are billionaires while 37.9 million United States citizens are in poverty. If you turn your phone’s calculator sideways (you must if you want to fit that many zeroes), you’ll find that just the billionaire’s pandemic surplus equates to over $55,000 for every impoverished person.  


Wealth inequality is not solely responsible for America’s suffering, but it nonetheless contributes to it. As the pandemic restrictions loosened, and a pseudo sense of normalcy returned, the American people returned to work: opinionated, poorer, and fresh out of a mental sensory deprivation tank.  


Now think about the relative isolation caused by wearing a mask inside for the following year. Obviously, the masks were needed to prevent the spread of the virus, but there’s no denying that it’s a tangible barrier between two people conversating and it blocks the half of the face which communicates the most non-verbal information. According to National Geographic, the mask hinders children’s development, impacting preschooler’s ability to develop emotional reasoning and social interaction skills. 


So essentially, the American working class became divided on ideals, significantly poorer, and less socially cognizant, all while experiencing time at a much slower rate. Is it surprising, then, that mental illness affects over 21% of American adults? 


Studies suggest that the pandemic was a catalyst for the mental health crisis, finding that there has been an estimated 29.2% to 35.0% increase in the prevalence of major depressive disorder in the United States, and an increase in anxiety disorder diagnoses by 25.6% globally. Almost 49% of people were anxious about returning to in-person interaction post pandemic. 


The culture has dissociated, like it can never account for the time lost from 2020-2021. In some ways, that may be true. Try as you might to make up for it – pull an all-nighter, start another project, reach that next milestone; it just doesn’t matter how busy a person is if their experience of time is twice as fast. So many people seem stuck taking hit after hit of dopamine to account for the time lost in the 2020 time vortex.  


It’s no wonder why so many have turned to the phones. ‘The scroll’ induces a meditative trance where time is but an illusion – just like life in the pandemic era. But even there, anxiety and insecurity are triggered. Influencers on yachts preaching their ‘tips’ on wealth acquisition, children of nepotism vlogging their life from their private jet, the 21-year-old entrepreneur with a $50 million net worth, all subconsciously reminding you of where you haven’t been, what you haven’t done, and who you haven’t become.  


Distraction, time dilation, wealth inequality, and a mental health epidemic have bubbled in the melting pot of American culture, and the country is worse off for it. But for how long can a society be on the burner before the pot bubbles over and the kitchen is ignited into flames? 


It’s impossible to tell. But it is certain that COVID-19 affected American citizens much more profoundly than first thought. For now, it’s go, go, go – there’s no time for a break. But maybe there will be. One day. First you have to catch up. 





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About the Contributor
Noah Nelson
Noah Nelson, Editor
I’m the Editor for the Lumen. My major is Sports Management and Leadership with an English Writing minor, and I also compete for the Men’s Golf team.
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