Feeling socially awkward after months of lockdowns and social distancing? You're not alone.
But experts say it's not necessarily the isolation that's causing us to feel unsure in social situations, especially because we weren't truly isolated like, say, an astronaut.
A social psychologist at Georgia State University, Tony Lemieux, told Business Insider that "it may be the case that in a very prolonged time away from everybody, you would start to see that slippage and deficits, but it seems like we're talking about a relatively short window, even though it feels like a long time."
Instead, it seems to be new social expectations — and tensions that underlie their negotiation — that are making us feel weird when we're in public or talking to friends and colleagues.
"We're so used to hugging, kissing, and shaking hands that it seems awkward to not touch in some way," Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian, told Insider.
It's not just the lack of a hug or kiss, though, that's the cause of unease: It's a lack of knowing if you should be leaning in or leaning away.
As the people around us are determining their own belief systems and comfort levels surrounding COVID-19, there will be increasing awkwardness in determining whether your beliefs align — and having a conversation when they don't align. Unlike most issues, to many people, this disagreement is literally life or death.
"It's an awkward conversation to have, especially with friends," behavioral and public economist at Swarthmore College, Syon Bhanot, said.
However, we can all agree, no matter how awkward, it's better to have forward conversations about your boundaries and beliefs instead of letting resentment boil. This is an interpersonal awkwardness that can only be solved by attacking it head on.