I’m lucky that I haven’t had to be glued to my laptop screen as others have during the last few months, but still I can’t help noticing the way that everyday communication is changing. Without the ability to meet in person, technology is bridging the gap between old and new normal. Whereas a video chat used to be a monthly check-in to appease the parents, or a 6-monthly event with an old friend perhaps, now if a day goes by without using my smartphone’s video chat feature, it’s a strange one. And that’s changing things.
A group chat with old university friends that used to require a few week’s coordination, now happens overnight. Colleague living in a different time-zone? No worries! I find myself receiving more calendar notifications than old school text messages these days, and that’s changing things. It’s profound for me because I spent a lot of years building short term connections with people, and having them fall away. I travelled a lot and crossed paths with many wonderful and interesting characters, but never for very long. And that was fine, but now that I’m more stationary than ever, I find myself investing time in keeping old connections alive; keeping that pulse going. It’s a small thing to dedicate oneself to, really, but I realised only once my ability to create new social connections was curtailed did I start to appreciate the ones I already had.
The value of these living networks is impossible to estimate. I always found it so liberating for each connection I made to be fresh and new, ripe with possibility and free of any baggage whatsoever. But now I see their limitations, and that the true infinite possibility lies in the cradle of long term connections, nurtured and developed over time, with foundations of support, understanding, and perhaps even a little
But that’s just community, isn’t it. In these times where physical interaction is so heavily policed, there has been such danger of losing community, but it hasn’t happened. We’ve found new ways to support each other, from the most vulnerable, so a simple video chat with your Gran at the weekend. For sure I’m concerned that it’s desensitising; certainly, it’s disturbing to me, watching old TV shows and instinctively thinking “Oh God! They’re not social distancing!”. The world’s changing, but if there’s one thing we humans are good at, it’s adapting to change. And the human spirit won’t be suppressed.
In fact, I think more than “bridging the gap,” technology is busily sketching the blueprint for how the future will look. For now, that means keeping connections alive, keeping communities supportive and vibrant, and maybe even breathing life into a few relationships that have been all but forgotten.
And that’s okay with me.