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The End of the Handshake Era

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Boys are taught from a young age the importance of a good handshake. A good handshake requires a firm grip and direct eye contact. It isn’t just guys who do handshakes. Ladies shake hands as well. We all have been taught some basic rules about handshakes. A wimpy handshake conveys that you really don’t care or that the handshake is not genuine or sincere. A handshake that is too firm from a man to a woman can be painful. It does appear that the handshake, a tradition known to have existed in the 5th Century B.C. may have fallen out of good graces during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have also been taught to wash our hands frequently. We have been taught to wash our hands after using the restroom. Wash our hands before and after eating. Wash our hands after shaking other people’s hands. Wash our hands after blowing our nose. Despite all we have been taught about washing our hands, handshakes have been proven to transfer almost twice as many bacteria as a fist bump according to a study by the American Journal of Infection Control. Longer durations of contact and stronger grips increased the transmission of bacteria.

Adoption of the fist or elbow bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious diseases between individuals. The handshake is such a terrible idea, from an infectious disease standpoint. Especially if you consider that only 5% of people wash their hands with soap long enough to get rid of germs, while 15% of men and 7% of women don’t wash up at all, according to a 2013 study by Michigan State University.

While a handshake can signify the sealing of a deal it can also be used to foster cooperation during negotiations that leads to better outcomes for both sides. Most of us feel the need to shake hands in an effort to please someone as in a doctor-patient greeting or at a business meeting. Ultimately, it’s better to play it safe and avoid these greetings. A typical human hand carries 3,200 bacteria from 150 species and commonly includes fecal bacteria.

It is time to say goodbye to this practice. Perhaps we can all shake on that?