I am convinced that living through a global pandemic is making me
less smart dumber.
The good news is that I’m not alone. The bad news is that I’m not alone. The American Council on Science and Health confirms (because I Googled it after the week that I’ve had) that The Coronavirus is Making us all Stupid. Friends of Richard A. Friedman, professor of clinical psychology at Cornell, confirm they are feeling “ tireder and dumber.” Years from now, when official research results roll in, I expect that we will learn that social isolation as a pandemic control measure has resulted in a stupider populace, however, I suspect and hope that when these controls lift, and when life returns to normal, we will regain our lost cognitive capacity. I certainly hope that the pandemic isn’t destroying brain cells, rather, that it is just rendering many of them dormant and ineffective.
You’re all getting dumber, too
I make this observation in part because every time I turn on the TV or read the news I see and hear people saying and doing really dumb stuff — and they’re not even trying to be sarcastic or ironic, they’re being serious. People are refusing to wear masks, believing that in doing so they’re jeopardizing their hard-won freedom to become ill and make those around them ill. There are more conspiracy theories circulating now than there have ever been, and people I know, like, and respect are buying into them.
But mostly it’s just me. Probably.
I make this observation mostly, however, because I keep doing really dumb things. What is interesting is that I can accomplish highly complicated tasks with ease, but the simple things trip me up. To combat this brain fog, the bottom of my computer monitor is dotted with Post-it-Notes, reminding me to do the basics.
“CHECK NAME SPELLING,” one note shouts, and yet already once this week I added an s to someone’s last name, and for no good reason.
The notes, it seems, are only effective if you read them before you do something dumb.
Yesterday, I needed to send a message to a colleague. He is someone I speak with at least once a week. Scrolling through my Microsoft Teams contact list, I became frustrated. Where was he? Where did he go?
It took several minutes of searching for Chad before it dawned on me. His name is Todd. It has always been Todd. What’s worse is that I don’t know a single Chad. Zero Chads orbit my sphere.
And then it was dinner time. For two nights in a row I’ve made Greek salad for dinner, and for two nights in a row I’ve sat down to consume the salad and thought: “What’s missing?”
As I was standing at the sink brushing my teeth before bed, I paused, stared at myself in the mirror, and yelled: “GREEN PEPPERS!”
As you may be aware, there are five basic ingredients to a Greek salad, not including dressing. It took me 48 hours to troubleshoot this mystery.
Let’s keep the dumb moves in check, for a little longer
So, when our public health officer makes a public statement, warning us to keep to our “safe six,” and to have “fewer faces and bigger spaces,” it didn’t surprise me to turn around and see people planning birthday parties, and halloween parties.
However, while we might be tempted to attribute our stupidity to pandemic-induced dumbness, that’s not cool. I eventually figured out what was missing from my salad. I eventually connected with Todd. My brain fog didn’t result in a mass spreading event and jeopardize the lives of those around me.
There’s a time and place to be dumb, and maybe in a few more months we can be really dumb once again with minor impact on those around us.
Our brains are melting due to this pandemic, however, if we ensure our stupidity is reserved for unsent emails and blasé salads we will get through this. Together.
And then we can go back to having intelligent conversations with new and interesting people and reverse the adverse side effects that this pandemic is having on our collective intelligence.