The Lasting Impacts

 by Jesse Strenger Skolnik

The big-picture changes from extraordinary events such as this one often take years to show their full extent, and I think this crisis will be no different. In history-altering moments, people often look only at the present situation to see some sort of change happening around them; but history doesn't work that way. Whether it be the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the Great Recession of 2008-2009, or the COVID-19 epidemic of today, yes, there will always be short-term effects to point to in the moment. The lasting impacts take longer to be revealed.

After the Great Recession, for example, the obvious effects were high unemployment, low consumer confidence, and a need for economic recovery.  However, in the following years, citizen movements such as Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party came into existence, challenging elites and the status quo from both the left and the right. These signaled the beginning of a new era in politics in which populism has become paramount to winning votes. Although it took several years, by 2016, this change was apparent.

With COVID-19, I envision that it will go a similar way, especially since we are already in a recession, with unemployment possibly going to reach Great Depression levels. It might take a year or two to make the changes totally visible, but fundamental change to the political climate is very likely to ensue. The sociopathy of major corporations will once more come to the forefront, exemplified by Amazon’s firing of a worker who spoke out against keeping employees in the warehouses. The shortage of ventilators and masks, much because companies did not make more following SARS due to the lack of profitability, also highlights this disdain for anything outside the realm of short-term gain. And especially, American opinions on healthcare will change as they already have drastically in the last five years. This process will be exacerbated, with a solid majority of Americans supporting a single-payer system, as millions of them are being thrown off of their insurance plans  as they lose their jobs.

This is already reflected in polling numbers, with single-payer at a net positive of 20 percentage points in a recent poll, up 9 from a month ago, and surely to only increase. In reverse of the zeitgeist that Ronald Reagan started and Bill Clinton summed up: “The era of big government is over.” A new era of big, yet representative government has just begun, as Americans realize that the problems of the current crisis have been caused by a lack thereof.


Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

by Olivia Kongevold

Almost every time I enter my younger sister Amelia’s room, I see a hunched over human, whose eyes are merely centimeters away from the screen of a phone, watching none other than “Grey’s Anatomy.” It's concerning to see her unhealthy posture as she tilts her 15-year-old head and neck, leaning into the gossip and surgery plots that mark the show's episodes.

Ever since she downloaded Netflix on her phone, the same situation happens again and again. I try to participate in some sisterly bonding through simple conversation, but as I enter her chamber of darkness with the glowing screen as the only source of light, it’s as if I am invisible to her.

I turn on the light, sit criss-cross-applesauce on her bed, and make subtle noises so as to not scare her out of this weird trance she has going on. After a while, I give up and just start talking (disclaimer: I am the chattiest person in my family who needs attention 24/7). However, to no surprise, this typically produces no response. So I dramatically leave the room with a heavy, melancholic sigh, as I slowly close the door so she can hear the creaking of the wood to emphasize my feeling of dejection.

To some people, this may seem like normal teenage behavior. But news flash: I am a teenager as well. So yeah, I get it. However, Amelia and I used to share a room for about 14 years, so it’s safe to say we have a really close bond that is now changing because of her extreme attachment to her phone.

If you have ever watched Disney’s “Frozen”, my situation is just like that (except my parents are still very much alive, we share three other siblings, and we aren’t responsible for a whole kingdom). I am Anna, desperately pleading for her sister Elsa, to come out of her room and hang out with her. In the song “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman,” Anna sings “we used to be best buddies, and now we’re not. I wish you could tell me why.”

These lyrics, and their implication in my very real world today, have been speaking to me on a deep personal level now more than ever. I hope someday Amelia will be able to let it go, and thaw this cold and distant barrier that separates us.


Not Something To Brag About

by Timothy Klaum

I’ve always considered myself to be a clean person. My mother raised me to never touch anything in my house after going out, until I’ve washed my hands. Every time she picks me up in her car, upon entry I have to use one of the three hand sanitizers that she keeps in there. That’s just the way that my family works. 

Since the pandemic broke out in the United States, people have commented on how they never realized that they were washing their hands wrong. Not me. 

 I wasn’t worried when the coronavirus got to Italy, or even when it made its way here. I knew how to battle a germ.  

However, the thing that has terrified me the most throughout this clearly-terrifying time we are living in, is the idea that, for seventeen years of my life, the people around me haven’t been washing their hands correctly.

Dirty hands have always been a pet peeve of mine. When I was little, I couldn’t play in the dirt like other kids because I hated the feeling of it under my fingernails. Now, when everyone around me seems to be just learning the rules, I’m starting to get scared. Why have these people never washed their hands correctly? Why didn’t someone teach them this when they were a child? Why would anyone seemingly brag about not knowing how to wash their hands?

Now, when I watch TV at night, every episode of “Friends” on Nick at Night is interrupted by a member of the CDC or the New York State Health Department reminding me that “this is how long you should be washing your hands.” Why weren’t these commercials always in rotation to teach kids how to wash their hands? Why is this breaking news for most of the country?

According to the CDC website,  their research has revealed that men wash their hands much less often than women, and go as far as to lie about it, rather than taking the 20 seconds out of their day to just do it. It is chilling to me to realize the potentially-disgusting habits of the people around me. Additionally, a psychologist recently voiced a theory that people, like me, who are already predisposed to combating germs (so-called “germaphobes” or whatever people label us with) may now be the ones who got it right!

So while I continue to quarantine myself comfortably, with my clean hands, I wonder how I could ever feel safe out in the world now that I know it’s filled with people who can braggingly admit that they had previously never washed their hands correctly. 


I Went To The Woods

by Sydney Khan

The Technological Takeover of Our Communication

by Matthew Calandra

Like almost everyone else in today’s technological world, I can’t go even an hour without grasping at my computer, phone, or any sort of link to the internet.  I complete my work via the internet, connect with friends through social media, and keep up with relevant news through several media outlets.  And the list goes on.  But where is the line between connective opportunity and compulsion?

Well, writer Yudhijit Bhattacharjee and many others warn that the ease of technology, although beneficial at points, can result in an overall sense of dependency.  For most of us, our phones have become a fifth limb we just can’t live without, and that is where the issue lies.  

Our society today is essentially broken up into two completely separate spheres: the virtual world and reality.  However, the once-clear line between virtual and real beings have merged, leaving us in one, technology-reliant society.  Today’s in-person social interactions can shift back and forth from face-to-face communication, to texts, to media posts, and right back to talking.  And all of this communication happens seamlessly.

With these new fronts of communication come a weakened attention span and a lower awareness in social settings.  For instance, normal textbook work that would once take me 30 minutes to complete can now take up to two hours only because of the urge I have to check my phone.  And though I am starkly aware of the distracting effect my technology is having on my productivity, I nonetheless cannot seem to make the logical move to cleanly eliminate that distraction.  Nor can I consistently focus my attention as I know it should be focused.

Let's take a scenario where a group of 10 friends go to dinner together.  These friends are relatively close, they are comfortable enough to talk seriously as well as share a laugh.  They sit down, chat for a few minutes and then order their meal.  Almost immediately after they order their food, a wave of smartphones arise from the pockets beneath the table.  The laughter slowly turns to silence as each friend is enclosed in their own technological world.  This, again, is where the issue lies.

So is technology all bad?  No, of course not; but it does have its flaws.  The future is smartphones; technology will become more accessible, and we will — more than anything — have to adapt our communication techniques starting with the kinds of habits and relationships we wish to have.