Vaccines are here and with them come the promise of a return to the previous normal life. Over the coming months, many of us may be able to travel and move around more to see family and friends. The arrival of vaccines itself brought about an immediate relief, giving people something to talk about!
In fact, you hear here and there: You’ve got your first dose and it’s news worth listening to. And finally, you have the answer to the dreaded question “How is it going?” Perhaps your parents have been fully vaccinated as of today... What a relief.
However, the most important thing is that some people talk about vaccines as if they were soap or shampoo. For example, they ask which one did you get? Also, you may ask a friend of yours and get the answer: “In general, all types of vaccines are very good”.
Despite these questions, or small conversations, they play a large role in socialisation. This type of talk may be an essential part of social bonding. You answer the phone, go to a store, or pass by your neighbour quickly and you may ask each other: How are you or what are you doing, for instance. The fact is that when this happens, you are trying to acknowledge someone’s existence, so that you create a more meaningful interaction. On the other hand, this type of conversation may also be like a blabber to manage a communication channel on social media! You alert people about where, how and when to speak.
Whatever it is, these questions revive a connection and, I would say, act as the linguistic glue that binds our interactions together. A pandemic like Covid-19 has completely broken relationships, making social interactions even more stressful. And so you might suddenly notice someone asking, “How are you?” Who knows, after all, whether the other party (or a member of their family) was sick, lost his/her job, or even reached a tiring level of sadness and fear.
Perhaps the most important thing for all of us is that the long chapter of closures has started fading little by little and vaccines have begun to herald hope for a return to the new normal! The function of small talk may still be somewhat distorted and you may find yourself still answering the literal meaning of catchy words and now only in terms of calculated optimism you are saying: I’m fine, I’m starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
In a way, I can say in this context that human speech is flexible and adaptable. However, it is added to our experience of the world and the life we live daily. And so, let’s hope that slowly but surely the old patterns of talks we had before the pandemic in shops, parks and faraway places will return. Possibly a lot of people are obsessed with social compliments and it will be hard for them to resist the urge to send an informal message, How’s it going?, at the earliest opportunity.
Restoring the normal and short conversations may relieve the stress of the pandemic more than you think. Interactions will bring in a new vigour, after a year of unexpected decline. Think about how happy it is to say “I’m fine” even though you didn’t notice, but you meant it!
Dr Yousuf Ali al Mulla, MD, Ministry of Health, is a medical innovator and educator. For any queries regarding the content of the column he can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org