Why the “Staying Alert, Staying Alive” message means we’re are all in the same boat, or are we?
Actually, we’re not. Why? Simply because different people give different responses, fact. And this is a fundamental which the government appears to have ignored.
Because people a) have different personalities so our individual experience of the pandemic is not the same for all, and b) for the same reason we’re all going to interpret and respond in different ways to the “staying alert” message.
The Covid-19 strategies to slow down the pandemic have disrupted just about every aspect of our lives. I think that in an effort to minimize the damage of the current crises on our mental health, Boris Johnson announced the first easing of lockdown and gave us our three-step road map to recovery.
Not without causing confusion though. Especially with the new “stay alert” slogan that is risking unwanted behaviours or in another words, people might relax their efforts too soon. And that’s not what we want, considering the fact that we are currently at stage four but moving towards stage three containment measures.
What does “stay alert” mean to you anyway? How will people interpret and adjust to the new message?
Find the Hidden Clues in Personality Types
Staying alert means that you need to check your surroundings for a possible threat. That in itself triggers your flight-fight-freeze response. It gets even worse when you can’t really see the danger in a tangible form, after all the virus is invisible. So, people will attach a different meaning to a “stay alert” message.
To some it will mean they will continue to religiously observe every possible aspect of the advice given, but to many others it will simply imply that as we are no longer required to stay indoors, we can simply resume our normal social lives.
Likewise, the confusion with the wearing of face masks. At the start of the lockdown we were neither required nor advised to wear a face mask on the premise that they don’t really work except in clinical settings. Now we are being told to cover our faces when in crowded places. And again, it’s down to you and I if we want to follow this advice. Also, how do we define a crowded place?
Several factors can increase or decrease someone’s engagement with these measures. One of which is personality. The personality traits will be relevant to how people respond to the “stay alert” message.
With the coronavirus pandemic we also got loneliness epidemic so those of us who were seeing the clouds without the silver lining this will be an opportunity to impulsively try to get back to normality. Stay at home as much as possible won’t really work because it clashes with the chance to spend our time outdoors for as long as we want.
It seems as if Boris put his message across hoping that the collective conscience will prevail and people will operate in a unified way and follow the message strictly, forgetting that this message is open to interpretation and people will give it their own meaning based on their own life circumstances and their personality type.
You see, our behaviour is not rational and it’s influenced by many factors, such as the present circumstances that are actually making us very emotional. Self-isolation, social distancing, anxiety and uncertainty are everyday themes that we live through during this crisis.
If we take into account the big five personality traits – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism – we could expect that people will get different behavioural cues from “stay alert” based on their strongest trait.
So, for someone who’s high, both on neuroticism and conscientiousness the anxiety will be higher, they will be more organised, less distractible so they are more likely to find it easy to adhere to the newly proposed social distancing and self-isolation measures without being impulsive.
Now if we look at those who are high in personality trait extraversion, seeking out excitement and opportunity, and if they happen to be low on agreeableness and/or conscientiousness, then for them this message may very well mean that they will probably relax more than the government recommendations advise.
Through a change in the messaging, the government has attempted to ease us all out of our enforced incarceration by hoping that they can appeal to our collective common sense. But this fails to appreciate not only the fact that we all perceive life and events differently, but that after being subjected to a clear directive to stay at home, we are now expecting and seeking the same depth of clarity in order to bring us out of lockdown.