Covid’s Silent Victims by Eden Paterno

While Social distancing acts as a boon to the general public, it is a scourge to the extrovert, especially the adolescent extrovert. Teenagers who normally thrive on social interaction perceive this admittedly preventative and necessary measure as oppressive and damaging.

Introverts and many adults will neither recognize nor comprehend this phenomenon. To them, the drive to connect with peers might seem a luxury, similar to how many adults grieve the loss of yoga classes, getting one’s nails done, and dining out. The “Stay At Home” prescription seems not only logical, but tolerable. But for the extrovert, staying away from one’s friends becomes more than an inconvenience or annoyance; it robs adolescents of an essential need. Child development experts understand that one of the most critical needs for adolescents is social belonging. Without social interaction, teens can become depressed, irritable, and unmotivated.

Zoom, FaceTime, and other facsimiles are not enough. Adults often like to pontificate about how lame texting and other online modes of communication are compared to meeting and speaking face to face. Here is where we teens eagerly agree with our elders. Meeting on Zoom to meet social needs is like watching a video on Food Network to satisfy one’s hunger. If anything, it has the opposite effect.

Most important, I implore everyone to comprehend that this current limitation can be detrimental to extroverts and many teens. Please empathize with teens. Like everyone else, they struggle with social isolation. When at all possible, allow them to gather with others, especially when they utilize reasonable precautions. We understand that we must congregate in our cars (sitting in an open trunk) and maintain more than six feet distance from each other. We don’t want to get sick or infect anyone else; we simply are starving for social interaction. If you see teens—or adults—congregating outside of what you believe is appropriate, a gentle reminder will work far better than harsh judgment and a call to the police. We will appreciate your words and concerns far better.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Eden Paterno

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