Coronavirus update: Trauma expected to impact young people


In David Egger’s latest novel, The Every, he imagines a dystopian post-pandemic world in which people young and old are reliant on their devices. They are told about what they’re saying and how they’re saying it; they have reached a point where they can’t have a conversation without it, and are so reliant on the technology, it defines every conversation, from the most innocuous to the most formal. It is the echo of a potential future. Earlier this month talked to Psychotherapist Anna Mathur about the effect of the pandemic on young people and what this could mean for the future.

This comes in light of a recent survey by Recognised that found that over half of 18–24-year-olds have felt undervalued in the last 18 months and that over 70 percent have felt alone.

Over the past 18 months we have been in lockdown three times and each time young people have borne the mental brunt to the point where “there has been trauma [and]…there’s a level of chronic ongoing trauma that people don’t recognise. It is the chronic ‘un-meeting’ of basic human needs”, Ms Mathur said.

These basic human needs include meeting up with friends and having those every-day social interactions.

These social interactions are even more important for young people because when you’re a teenager, Anna says you are, “at a point when you’re learning about who you are, you’re learning about how, how you want to kind of communicate who you are in this world”.

READ MORE: Covid-19: Young people found winter lockdown harder

As a teenager you don’t just experience dramatic physical changes, but you also change dramatically on a psychological level.

During this time, you learn about social etiquette, you learn how to communicate, who you like in a romantic sense: “It’s the loss of life stages and choices and relationships and social learnings”, said Ms Mathur.

You start travelling too, becoming more independent, going to parties, heading overseas for the first time.

And the lockdowns put a hold on that as young people couldn’t go to school, couldn’t travel, couldn’t see friends in person; the only way was down into the cavernous online world, into social media.


Discussing the impact of social media and whether it had exacerbated the issue, Ms Mathur said: “I think social media is possibly one of the most toxic tools of our generation. [It’s] like fast food, it’s giving us something then and there, but actually is it really nourishing us? Is it really giving us what we need?”

That is, fundamentally, one of the key issues. Social media provides us with dopamine hit after dopamine hit, short bursts of satisfaction.

Breaking away from this and realising that true life satisfaction comes from those friends who you don’t need a screen to see, is difficult to break away from after nearly two years online.

The question is then, what consequences will all this screen time have on young people and how they interact?

Mathur believes that “the repercussions of that are going to look different for everyone. It will be there and we might not realise the true weight of that for a while because people are still in survival mode”.

On whether young people today will find it harder to build longer, more meaningful friendships in the future, she that this could be the case, “unless they consciously decide to step out of their comfort zones and start building social confidence which is very hard in a world that is encouraging you to be on your phone”.

As creatures of habit, humans very easily settle into routines.

The worry is that, because of this, when the pandemic ends, young people won’t want to look up and see their friends again as they’ll feel they have all they need from the digital world.

Whilst young people have never been so connected to each other, the data shows us that, ironically, they have never been so lonely.

Trying to help young people readjust and get out of their comfort zones post-pandemic will be one of the great challenges for policy makers and social scientists alike.

We will need to find a way to make sure we do not fall further down the slippery slope towards Egger’s world.

A world that doesn’t feel so far away.



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