LHS is Unusually Quiet

Sophia Mirabal

Pre-pandemic, LHS was characterized by the hustle and bustle of hallway crowds and classroom chatter, blooming with fervent talk and easy conversation. As in-person learning returns, we have been reintroduced into this atmosphere. But, not with the same familiarity. Instead, our impressive population of 3000+ students is significantly (though not totally) silent. It is without a doubt that COVID-19 and its social-distancing norms have made for disruption in what was our regular way of life. Now that we are returning to more densely populated settings, we are having trouble adjusting. 

Having spent a year in solitude, many have grown accustomed to a comfortable bubble. Our time here has led us to forget how to maneuver a world of social complexity and depth. This has been a collective experience. We have become acclimated to a “one-way” interaction: a virtual world in which we find it easy to bask in the absence of “superficial” affairs, free from comment and contact. Now, interaction with engaging and legitimately responsive individuals is unfamiliar. As social contact becomes closely associated with risk of disease (and for good reason), human interaction has become transactional, the large majority of people choosing to continue their convenient, reclusive charade. 

Currently, the dangers of social rejection, individualism, and loss of community are increasingly evident as our fear of judgment and exclusion has furthered. Adherence to isolation strategies is adopted, and collaboration is avoided. Many may feel awkward or incompetent, promoted by the absence of primary public access. “I feel that most of the students and staff were in varying states of shock when we first returned to school.” says LHS science teacher Mr. McAnaney, “It was a massive adjustment on many levels. I think that we were all figuring out how to be around so many people again, that it took a while to recalibrate. The students seemed to be re-learning how to be in an in-person learning environment.” 

Social interaction is often comparable to basic human needs, analogous to sleep, shelter, or other natural obligations. It is like a muscle; one that can undergo atrophy if not flexed. Amidst this transition, susceptibility to stressors and the development of mental illness has increased, often without proper outlets for assistance. 

These effects are especially significant for adolescents. Not only are we undergoing a stage of development in which exploration of autonomy and the expansion of social cognition and comprehension is crucial, but this younger generation is especially hypersensitive to social stimuli and the negative effects of social exclusion. Already expressing a strong preference for online interaction, it may be harder for younger people to re-establish effective patterns of communication. Perhaps a year of confinement has compromised our ability to become more socially adept with age. Will today’s adolescents become more reserved adults?