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Description: I have posted previously about the non-obvious ways in which the social isolation imposed upon us by the Coronavirus pandemic have added to our levels of stress and anxiety. However, my focus in those posts was on the atypical or unnatural nature of alternative forms of social engagement such as video conferencing using Zoom. What I had not considered was the possibility that social isolation, in and of itself, could have an impact upon our social orientations and wellbeing. So, what sorts of things have you run across or can hypothesis as possible impacts of social isolation with people who spend long periods of time in solitary confinement, serving remotely (as in Antarctica), or on distant military deployment? Turns out there has been quite a bit of Psychological research into such things so, collect your recollections and hypotheses and then read the article linked below (related research links are  further down in the References section) to see what research into such experiences might be suggesting about outr current circumstances.

Source: We’re All Socially Awkward Now. Kate Murphy, New Analysis, The New York Times.

Date: September 1, 2020

Photo Credit:  Image by NinzDrawing from Pixabay

Article Link:

Perhaps you have heard accounts of released prisoners who, after a short period of time “out in the world” re-offend so they can return to prison or soldiers who opt for re-deployment shortly after returning home from a live-fire setting. Explanations typically involve focusing on poverty and lack of coping skills among released prisoners and a desire for the adrenaline rushes associated with live-fire situations among some soldiers. However, while such things may be contributing factors it is worth seriously an additional possible factor of social isolation and its effects on us given our basic social nature. Particularly in western cultures where we have focused heavily upon individual factors and experiences it can be difficult for us to properly attend to things that may well reflect social rather than individualistic aspects of ourselves. In some ways we are inherently social, and, in those areas, we can see negative impacts of social isolation. No, our Covid-19 related social limitations are NOT the same as the solitary confinement of prisoners but there may be similar systems effected by both experiences. Perhaps thinking about the status of your social links when reflecting on your subjective wellbeing would be both instructive and helpful.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of experiences, other than Covid-19 related lock-downs, involve potentially significant experiences of social isolation?
  2. What are some things that we could do to make returning home or to the outside world easier and more positive for soldiers coming of deployment or prisoners being released from custody?
  3. What sorts of things might we suggest that people think about or do in order to note and mitigate potential effects of Covid-19 related social isolation?

References (Read Further):

Haney, Craig. “Restricting the use of solitary confinement.” Annual Review of Criminology 1 (2018): 285-310. Link

Haney, C. (2018). The psychological effects of solitary confinement: A systematic critique. Crime and Justice, 47(1), 365-416. Link

Hodgetts, D. J., Stolte, O., Chamberlain, K., Radley, A., Groot, S., & Nikora, L. W. (2010). The mobile hermit and the city: Considering links between places, objects, and identities in social psychological research on homelessness. British Journal of Social Psychology, 49(2), 285-303. Link

Hawkley, L. C., & Capitanio, J. P. (2015). Perceived social isolation, evolutionary fitness and health outcomes: a lifespan approach. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1669), 20140114. Link

Nikolskiy, P., & Pitulko, V. (2013). Evidence from the Yana Palaeolithic site, Arctic Siberia, yields clues to the riddle of mammoth hunting. Journal of Archaeological Science, 40(12), 4189-4197. Link

Stickley, A., & Koyanagi, A. (2018). Physical multimorbidity and loneliness: A population-based study. PloS one, 13(1), e0191651. Link

Haney, C. (2020). The Science of Solitary: Expanding the Harmfulness Narrative. Northwestern University Law Review, 115(1), 211-256. Link

Hawkley, L. C., Cole, S. W., Capitanio, J. P., Norman, G. J., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2012). Effects of social isolation on glucocorticoid regulation in social mammals. Hormones and behavior, 62(3), 314-323. Link

Singer, C. (2018). Health effects of social isolation and loneliness. Journal of Aging Life Care, 28(1), 4-8. Link