With it becoming almost impossible to make deep and meaningful connections in person, are people finding it harder to make those same type of connections when meeting on platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams? Or are we adapting to a different way of connecting?
We have really had to evolve this last year haven’t we? Every which way our social interactions have been really challenged and tested. I remember 2 years ago being introduced to the world of Zoom and thinking this is alright but there’s only a use for it if you’re really out of reach and can’t make a face to face meeting. Never, like a billion others across the globe did I think I would be using it daily in the way I have. I have become reliant on virtually connecting in order to keep my practice going – like others I’ve had to pivot from offering a largely face to face service, to a virtual one.
And it’s a question I get posed a lot when I’m in business network meetings- "How do you find working this way?" In truth, I find I’m working a lot harder to really listen to someone, given that my job is all about ‘reading’ and understanding people and where they are at with things.Those nuances in body language and subtle physiological shifts are much harder to observe via a screen, but it’s funny, in many cases I think I’m making more meaningful relationships because of that ‘extra’ effort that I have to put in…I’m engaging with people in a different way, asking perhaps more pertinent questions in order to get a different clarity that I would perhaps ordinarily just observe. I know I have actually built lots of relationships in this year with people who are just not in my locality even, because I have been forced into this virtual space, I have had to seek out a connectivity with others in a way that would have seemed alien to me the year before last. Lots of the connections I really value right now are with people that I have never even met in reality.
Sometimes, the virtual world allows us to build deeper relationships because people are less inhibited, because they’re in their own territory, there is less perceived threat, there is a safety about communication, and a different honesty or authenticity can prevail because after all, if it just gets too uncomfortable you can just ‘exit’ and leave the room if it’s not working out and blame it on technology!
In a really in a strange way for me me with all the woes this pandemic has created, it has created opportunities for other connections that I’m really grateful for.
Thinking about forming deeper relationships, my thoughts go to those who are in long distance relationships or those trying to find a relationship – how these times have altered the course of interaction. To understand a person it's necessary to observe how they genuinely are when in social groups – do they ‘play a role’? Are they genuine or do they 'act' depending on who they are around. If you’re the type of person that usually ‘lights up a room’ when you enter it…how is that conveyed via a screen?
As I watch my eldest being taught, I wonder how it must be for some educators right now - talking to 'blanked out' screens. It must be tough really going from energetic interaction with students to now talking to screens. That feedback loop and interactive energy in the classrooms is disrupted and its different. Creating impact with children that is engaging suddenly feels different and the game changes when you switch to virtual. I certainly notice with my some of my younger clients, it really feels hard work, because in person they’d be sharing more readily, we’d be doing different things and I’d have greater scope for observation.
I was thinking about how much our journey with virtual connectivity has already evolved in this time. In lockdown 1.0 the aim was to very much maintain connections that had been interrupted we were meeting people regularly online socially , with zoom quizzes and regular virtual drinks, and meetups for clubs for crafts and choirs, and all sorts. Are we now just fatigued with being online? Especially If you’re working and you’re in lots of virtual interactive meetings?- you may be experiencing a fatigue from excessive screen time and that ‘extra’ effort to tune in. I wonder are we seeing this lessen now, because in fact we want to get back to real people and connection of a primal kind. With the recent UK announcements and a planned roadmap charting our way out of lockdown, we can be hopeful that lessons we take from our intense virtual experiences of interaction can be used to enhance those in-person social relationships, however we choose to do that.