Losing Touch with Basic Social Etiquette

The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, September 4, 2022 as part of the “Raise Your Hand” column in the Insight section.

Yeon Jae Kim

By: Yeon Jae Kim
, student at Roosevelt High School, Class of 2025

From 2020 to today, the world is not the same as it once was.

The social, political and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have permeated nearly every aspect of our lives. But after two years, people are eager to restore a sense of normalcy to their lives. With several vaccines developed, people are free to go anywhere again and socialize with their friends and families. But some things are not yet “back to normal” — far from it. The long-term effects are real and have impacted our sociability in a significant way.

While social skills cannot be “lost,” they can be forgotten. “Forgetting” social skills can look like several things. For example, getting tired easily from simply talking with others, suddenly feeling awkward in social settings, or forgetting basic manners or social norms. From young children to adults, the symptoms of declining social skills are present in all cross-sections of society.

Compared to years past, young children have reduced speaking abilities and understanding of language. The ability to see one’s mouth and the entire face is critical to language acquisition and developing emotional intelligence through identifying facial movements. But with masks covering our faces, this becomes a challenge.

The impacts on sociability can be seen among not only young children, but teenagers and adults as well. When limitations were placed on social gatherings, many of us turned to social media to fill the void. Although real-life relationships have suffered through COVID, engagement on social media sites has thrived since it was one of the few ways people could experience community amid the lockdowns and restrictions.

What is forgotten includes not only social etiquette, but basic morality and decency as well.

— Yeon Jae Kim

However, many people have seemingly grown accustomed to the exclusivity of online interactions, and the act of engaging with people in real life has become burdensome for them. Therefore, while there are few legal limitations remaining on social activities, many have opted to remain in their comfort zone of not interacting with any other real humans. While this is their prerogative, we cannot deny the damage that these types of isolating and asocial habits have caused and will continue to cause our society.

Some may ask: Is this trend in our sociability really so important? What is the big deal if we are predisposed to being slightly more socially awkward than we once were? Unfortunately, society after the pandemic answers this question very clearly.

Anything is forgettable if it is not used over a long period of time; the majority of those in their 20s do not remember how to do simple algebra since they have not used it since high school. The same goes for social skills; if they are not used often, they are forgotten. What is forgotten includes not only social etiquette, but basic morality and decency as well.

A declining aptitude for face-to-face interactions in our society has and will continue to lead to an overreliance on social media connections. There will be fewer deep individual connections and relationships, particularly between those with differing perspectives and life experiences. People tend to be more rude and hostile when there is little mutual understanding. If this kind of trend continues, basic decency will be lost along with the virtues of keeping an open mind or considering different perspectives.

When a pandemic happens, it takes a lot of effort to actually “get back to normal.” In addition to restoring the political and economic systems, it is essential to highlight the ripple effects of our decaying social skills as well.

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