I have been working from home since early this year and it has been great. It has certainly made my gender transition easier. I don’t have to worry about hiding the HRT changes if I never have to see anyone. I was also able to go through the emotional changes from HRT privately rather than publically. Not to mention avoiding all the little inconveniences of commuting and working in an office environment. However, there has been one major negative: My social skills have completely evaporated.
It didn’t occur to me how isolated I have become until just recently. According to research, the average person participates in around 12 social interactions a day (I have seen higher estimates). I am probably only averaging 1-2 conversations a day. Most days, I don’t speak to anyone. I live alone and am not going out much due to the pandemic. As a result, I often go weeks or even months without having a face-to-face conversation. Surprisingly, this hasn’t really affected me outside of my loss of social skills. I adjusted to this newfound isolation without even noticing that I had.
Until recently, I didn’t realize that this extreme isolation was having any kind of effect on me. For the first time in several months, I had to have a conversation with someone for an extended period, and I could not manage it. I could not remember how to hold a conversation. I was not an amazing conversationalist before the pandemic, but I could at least engage in small talk. However, I was not even able to do that. I could not for the life of me figure out how to respond to simple statements. What do you say when someone brings up the weather? How do you respond if someone asks about your day? All the instinctual answers and responses that I never really thought about before were just gone. Needless to say, it was an incredibly awkward conversation.
I don’t think I realized that you could lose social skills from disuse. I always thought of it as something you just had; you could not lose social skills once you had them. That apparently is not true. I am also not the only person experiencing this. A quick google search found quite a few people discussing this same phenomenon. It looks like a lot of people will be socially awkward when the pandemic ends. It will probably take a while to get back those lost social skills once things return to normal.