During a Pandemic, ‘How Are You?’ Is a Bad Question:

The innocuous “How are you?” at the start of a conversation—which is normally understood in American culture to be a polite way of expressing concern for a person’s well-being, and to which the socially agreed-upon response is “I’m good,” “I’m fine,” or “I’m doing well”—hits differently in the COVID-19 era. The coronavirus pandemic and its effects are dramatic and widespread enough that it’s safe to assume everyone’s life has changed for the worse in some way. This moment has laid bare the extent to which “How are you?” is a mere pleasantry and not an honest inquiry in search of an honest answer. To ask “How are you?” is either to make the conversation very gloomy, very fast or to force someone to lie straight to your face and say they’re fine. We need better questions to ask.