Lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic inspired us to spread kindness, uplifting one another in the face of a crisis. But is such altruism sustainable in the long term?
As Australians languished in lockdown, many of us had epiphanies – we pledged to be kinder to those around us and placed teddy bears in windows, spread messages of hope on rocks, and helped out neighbours in need.
But after being set free, did our spirit of goodwill fly out the window along with our masks?
Kindness during the pandemic
Across the world, the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to hit the reset button and focus on what was important.
“There was a lot of adrenalin at the start, and we stepped up and looked after each other,” psychologist Dr Amanda Ferguson says.
“People were motivated to do the right thing, (and) show understanding towards others.
“But then the pandemic kept going, and it really ground people down; fatigue set in and people started to become less patient, less tolerant.”
Is altruism sustainable?
Dr Ferguson says the levels of altruism that flowed in the early days of the pandemic were heart-warming but aren’t sustainable for many people.
“Altruism makes people feel good about themselves,” she says.
“It’s also an important aspect of our need to stay connected – because we are social beings.
“Some of us can help more naturally, and for longer periods than others, because helping fills our own cup at the same time.
“But when we’re exhausting ourselves in helping, that tells us something is wrong with flow – or exchange – of energy.”
No respite from crises
Dr Ferguson says mental health issues related to the pandemic continue to linger, with many people still hurting from lockdowns.
What’s more, since the world began to emerge from the pandemic, we’ve been bombarded by more threats to our mental health.
“People have been hit so consistently since coming out of lockdown,” Dr Ferguson says.
“There have been rolling crises, from the war to the economy and climate, and now people are losing their houses because of interest rates.”
As a result, she says, we’ve been living in a state of uncertainty and instability for an extended period, compounding any mental health issues we may have.
Continued kindness vs. entitlement
‘It’s a new era of entitlement’
Adelaide AirBNB host Matthew, 51, says he feels there’s been a subtle shift in guests’ behaviour in recent years.
“I found guests were more willing to express gratitude after the lockdowns ended, and were just so happy to travel again,” he says.
“But now people are complaining about really petty things, such as only having cow’s milk – not almond milk – in the room, or scratchy loo paper.”
Matthew says before the pandemic, he always received five-star reviews because he offered a cheap, clean room and free breakfast and bikes.
“But (now) something seems to have changed a bit with guests’ expectations,” he says.
On the flip side…
Sydney business owner Lisa Follows says customer behaviour post-Covid has been heartening.
She says most people were understanding about delays and delivery issues, with few making complaints.
“I think it’s because they have been conditioned that this is part of life,” the Bella Curtains founder says.
“People had to wait for essential items during the pandemic, with shortages of items like meat and toilet paper, and so for non-essential items like curtains they don’t mind waiting.”