By Vaila Bhaumick

What is it about humans that we tend to do the exact opposite of instructed? Well, it seems we are hard-wired to do so. Reverse psychology works so well because we are “fundamentally wired to resist being controlled”. Unsurprisingly, we have also evolved to pursue our self-interest, and much of the reaction we see to the Coronavirus pandemic is human psychology playing out.

Let’s look at the UK’s herd immunity strategy as an example. It has caused outrage for some, and people are going against the initiative and self-isolating, supported by online community groups that have sprung up to help. Self-preservation, teamed with rebelling against government advice, has forced people to act.

Perhaps this was simply an exercise in reverse psychology all along. Speculation aside, the UK Government has now completely backtracked on the herd immunity reasoning, following criticism from WHO.

“Wash Your Hands”, Not “Wipe Your Butt”

Back to psychology, and lessons we may or may not have learned from the toilet paper wars. Whether we can call bulk-buying toilet paper an act of rebellion or not, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with self-preservation either – ever heard of a bum gun folks? I promise you; you will never look back! It will even save you money.

I digress. Let’s lower the tone – back to the bottom feeders of the panic-stricken population constructing fortresses out of loo roll. Hilarious memes aside, it’s always those who can’t afford to bulk buy that suffers. Rationing has now come into force in many supermarkets, to ensure that there is enough toilet paper, hand sanitiser and dried food to go around. People, please think twice about what you buy.

It beggars belief that fights over toilet paper have broken out, and how a crisis quickly brings out the worst in us. According to WHO, the most common symptoms of Coronavirus don’t even include diarrhoea. Herd mentality is a force to be reckoned with, and our individualist culture can’t resist whispering in our ear “empty the shelves”. Even I must admit that I can’t stop thinking about a giant bottle of hand sanitiser I left in my parents’ bathroom cabinet. What is wrong with us?

#StayTheF**kHome And Other Social Movements

It’s not all doom and gloom and lack of Andrex though. Beautiful acts of solidarity have flooded social media to give us hope in humanity. Italy, one of the worst affected countries, has witnessed joyful singing from balconies to lift spirits in otherwise devastating circumstances.

Those who realised the seriousness of the crisis long before the rest of us, have taken action. One of those is Florian Reifschneider, who started the #StayTheF**kHome movement, encouraging the public to follow his Self Quarantine Manifesto. He stated that hoping for governments to implement preemptive measures to slow the spread was a “lost cause”. Again, we see our self-preservation and rebellious nature at work. I would encourage you all though, even amid rebellion to follow guidelines from reliable sources, like WHO. 

The online support groups to help those self-isolating with daily tasks have increased in number in the last few days. Mental health charities have also reached out with advice for combating psychological ill effects during the crisis. Help if you can! 

COVID-19 has already had a massive impact globally on human life. Reports that it has reduced emissions in both China and Italy have us questioning the way we live our lives. Could Coronavirus be a catalyst for a more significant social change? But how will we all make a living? Many people are hopping into the virtual environment to stay afloat.

Going Viral (pun intended)

Many businesses and institutions have reacted quickly and taken their normal activities online. Needless to say, they haven’t all gone viral. But is this the right time to take every single daily task online?

Kudos goes to some of my friends, who reacted swiftly to the imposed quarantine in Spain. Tytoni Yoga and Complete English Club, both with their students’ interests in mind, introduced short videos to allow them to continue with their at-home practice during the lockdown.

What is the significance of small businesses reacting like this? Although there have been warnings that the virtual environment may not be appropriate for all learning, it is, at the very least, an attempt to take affirmative action, and encourage people to stay connected and engaged during quarantine. Flexibility is vital for small businesses, and indeed for humans, to say afloat in times of crisis.

If the Coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s to be flexible. All too often we get caught up in our rigid routines, expecting life to go on the way it always has. It’s time for a rethink. Whether that means considering those around you, changing your business model, being more self-sufficient and living off the land, or learning how to use a bum gun, it’s time to wash our hands off our old ways.