Since April, I’ve been writing stories for National Geographic. Here’s a quick teaser for my latest: Why do people keep going out to socialize despite the pandemic? The answer could be in our genes. An evolutionary urge that once kept us safe is now putting us in danger, but one thing that makes us uniquely human might help us overcome it.

Why some people can’t resist crowds despite the pandemic

Blame evolution for our compulsion to socialize even with the risk of COVID-19.

ON THEIR WAY to participate in a Black Lives Matter protest in early June in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jodyann and her fiancée drove past table after table of people dining at outdoor cafés. Despite stay-at-home orders, Milwaukee’s streets were crowded with protesters who wanted to make their voices heard against police brutality, and with diners taking in a leisurely meal. Both were risking their health by exposing themselves to others.

“The pandemic situation alone makes you not want to be out in a space with thousands of other people,” says Jodyann, a Black woman who has participated in a handful of protests this year. For Jodyann and many other protesters, making a difference to society is worth the risk. But, with the COVID-19 pandemic still gripping the globe and tens of thousands of new cases appearing every day, the choice to march, dine out, or join other social gatherings is complicated. While denial that the disease could hit us plays a part in some of these decisions, even people who acknowledge the danger of contracting the coronavirus keep risking social interactions. An evolutionary paradox that compels us to be social may be to blame.

Read the rest on National Geographic’s website.

Read another of my recent Nat Geo stories, a deep dive on conquering loneliness with advice from LGBTQ elders, here.

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