Forced introversion or social involution?
As the world in the throes of the pandemic is still defining the new normal, the unknown outweighs the understood This is highlighted most dramatically In the workplace with some companies deciding to work from home ‘forever’ (1). The impact of such decisions is felt by fresh graduates with the living room as the new cubicle and the dining table as the new workstation (2). It is also felt by seasoned professionals who no longer have the comfort of traveling back from work to recover from a bad day at work before family time (3). This has led to a forced introversion among working professionals or is it perhaps something deeper like social involution?
Involution is defined as “the regressive alterations of a body or its parts characteristic of the ageing process” (4). When applied in the social context in a professional or personal sphere it could not only alter the unit of the team in the workplace but the unit of the family at home.
Early humans shifted from being nomads to settling down however, being sedentary did not affect social circulation (5). The pandemic though challenges this notion and the impact is even more acute in children. Research indicates that newborn babies and children upto the age of one can best learn a language when they can see the adult face to face! (6). So what will happen to young children who attend schools online but the parents at home are not fluent with the language of instruction?
While it is difficult during a pandemic to look beyond the here and now it is important that this potentially seismic shift is acknowledged. Only then can we rely on human ingenuity and adaptability to counteract the ‘social involution’ through innovation. This will also help ensure that sedentary behaviour like that shown in Wall-E (7) remains strictly in the realm of fiction!
https://www.linkedin.com/news/story/telstra-says-staff-can-be-wfh-forever-5070652/ (Accessed on 27/07/2021)
Xiao, Y., Becerik-Gerber, B., Lucas, G., & Roll, S. C. (2021). Impacts of working from home during COVID-19 pandemic on physical and mental well-being of office workstation users. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 63(3), 181.
Dillon, M., & Jan, A. (2021). The Economics of Travel: It’s Not the Destination, It’s the Journey. Why Travel?: Understanding Our Need to Move and How It Shapes Our Lives, 77.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/involution (Accessed on 27/07/2021)
Nail, T. (2020). chapter 3. Centripetal Force. In The Figure of the Migrant (pp. 39-47). Stanford University Press.
Kuhl P Linguistic genius of babies (2010) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRRiWg6wYXw (Accessed on 27/07/2021)
Wall E (2008) https://www.pixar.com/feature-films/walle (Accessed on 27/07/2021)
Note: The concerns raised in this article will be further explored in this series