July 26, 2020
We live in a world of super connectedness, with the internet and social media at our fingertips. Yet, some still report feeling lonely.
Studies have found that about 40-50% of adults feel isolated and without meaningful relationships.
Generation Z, who grew up in the digital age, were found to be the loneliest generation.
The added hardship of social distancing, brought about due to COVID-19, could bring more challenges to combating loneliness and isolation. Anecdotally, there have been more cases of depression and anxiety. On the other hand, people have been experiencing an increase in interconnectedness. Families are now eating dinner together more often and children are back at home, spending more time with their parents.
There is always an opportunity behind each crisis. The pandemic induced social distancing could give us an opportunity to redefine “connectedness”
· Do we feel more connected with other people when receiving likes and comments on social media or having deep conversations with a few?
· Are extended family members more connected with each other by gathering annually or having face time weekly?
· Are CEOs more connected with their customers by flying hundreds of miles to make a one hour visit every year, or having a Zoom call every month to discuss business in depth?
I have found ways to connect with more people during this pandemic. I do miss catching up with a friend face to face in a local cafe, but with social distancing and most of us working from home, my friends and I have found more time for each other. Although we do not physically see each other, we talk more in general. In the past, we communicated in order to schedule face to face gatherings, juggle kids’ sports practices or other social obligations at the same time. Now, I just picked up the phone and call.
The less hurried schedule and flexibility of technology allows for more meaningful conversations.
As an introvert, I have always felt a bit anxious meeting new people in social functions. Having to introduce myself during social gatherings is intimidating. I constantly ask myself, “Should I join the group, or should I continue to stay by myself and risk looking awkward?”. “If I join the group, how would I build rapport with them?”.
This uncertainty and awkwardness is not present during Zoom calls. In most of the Zoom calls I attended in the past few months, thanks to the careful coordination of the hosts, everyone naturally skipped over the small talk and got right to the point. In a typical 15 minutes call session, I could get to know 4 or 5 people pretty well. This was a rarity before COVID-19.
Of course, virtual meetings will never substitute face to face connections. I am sure we will eventually be out of this pandemic and be able to gather and meet others face to face. While we all wonder what the new normal could be, I hope the way we connect with others in these virtual meetings will not go away. These virtual meetings have rekindled our desire to connect with others in a deep and authentic way, rather than being hurried and distracted.
Perhaps the pandemic has helped to redefine “connectedness”.