If the sense of touch is important for survival, how can we survive these times when the most we can do is touch objects and keep a physical distance from others?
There are many factors that determine how people respond to contact restrictions. A baby or toddler is usually unable to make up for the lack of physical contact, and in the worst-case scenario will become psychologically and physically ill. Young people, that is, young postpubescent adults, normally maintain vivid physical exchange within their age group. While this contact is partly motivated by partner-selection activities, it is also brought about by the scale of communication in this age range, which is normally larger. This age group of course finds it difficult to adhere to the contact restrictions. Nevertheless, there are still critical questions for anyone in this age group: how and where will they live, and with whom? When and how will they be an attractive person for others, and whom will they themselves find attractive? Having real, that is, physical contact with other people is essential to answer these questions. That is something that ultimately cannot be decided online or digitally. So, it is not surprising that it is this age group that constantly attracts media attention by violating the restrictions. For people of middle and advanced age, individual disposition determines how the lack of physical interaction is processed. If life takes place within a family or domestic partnership, then these social resources can—ideally—compensate for the general physical distance during this pandemic. However, if someone’s life is characterized by general social isolation, then there is a serious risk of physical and mental illness. This is a general effect of loneliness, and it also manifests outside times of pandemic. For social mammals like us, both extremes can become life-threatening over the long term; both the lack of contact with other people as well as the excessive closeness and lack of options for withdrawing. At the same time, the optimal situation is completely different for each person. Not everyone has the same need for physical contact. The desired intensity of physical contact as well as the length of contact differ from person to person and also between ages. That means each person must develop their own personal strategy for this special time of pandemic so that they can respond to their radically changed environment. In the most unfortunate situations, people retreat to drugs, alcohol and excessive violence. In the best situations, people exchange well-being massages or seek out similar professional services. (These can also be done wearing a mask.)