Face to face communication can never be replaced by electronic communication. The need for in person human connection is real and nothing has proved this more than this current pandemic, COVID-19. I’ve been in isolation, or quarantined as they call it, for 1 month now. I’m home with my 8-year-old and my husband. My husband is still working but comes home each day. Despite having my husband and daughter I still feel so alone sometimes. I made a pact with myself when I first had to close my business’ doors due to COVID, that I would FaceTime, Zoom or call people as much as I could opposed to the usual text messaging. That was actually one of my goals for 2020, to have more in person or face to face connecting instead of the cold, mechanical string of text messages we’ve all become so accustomed to. So, I have been FaceTiming with my mom daily, I call friends, I check in on someone new every day. I’m even Zooming with other business owners. All of these online connections are helpful and I’m so grateful I have them right now but it’s just not the same as seeing someone in person. I can’t shake hands with someone new I meet. I can’t hug a loved one hello. I can’t sit in a restaurant and feel the energy of the room. Hell, I can’t even go on the vacation we planned which would have been the first one where we flew somewhere and stayed at a resort in 5 years!
In the last decade or so, people have gotten so used to replacing face to face interaction with text messaging or other social media chat. I’ve even called a friend and they’ve sent it to voicemail and then texted me right after to say they couldn’t talk or just want to text. What the? I get that sometimes you want to have “me” time, but this has become the norm and I think it’s sad. People don’t even seem comfortable talking on the phone anymore. It’s as if we’ve lost the ability to be genuine if we can’t rehearse and edit it before we hit “send”. Can I tell you how painful it was when I was conducting phone interviews with candidates last year for a position in my company? They need to start teaching phone etiquette in schools along with how to manage your money properly and how to create a stronger work ethic. But that’s a whole other post.
With most of the world in isolation and quarantine, we feel the lack of human connection now more than ever. Knowing we can’t go meet our friends for a drink or drive to mom and dad’s for dinner or let our kids go out and play with their friends has made this era of screen time communication become very unappealing in comparison, at least for me it has. Again, because it’s my only option right now and I thank the tech gods for communication apps during all of this but I’d take in-person interaction over screen time any day if it were safe right now. The mental and emotional health issues that will be the result of this quarantining will last well into the future; a PTSD so to speak. I envision looking like Forest Gump on his little fishing boat waving frantically to Lt Dan and diving into the water to swim over to him the moment we get the OK to see our close family members (with a face mask on of course).
But if being “connected” more than ever in history is accurate and knowing we can call or chat with anyone in the world at any time is so amazing, why doesn’t it feel so good right now? Because human beings are pure energy. When we’re connecting face to face, we can feel one another’s energy (this isn’t hippy-dippy-trippy, it’s scientifically proven). The energy our bodies exchange during face to face time creates a connection that can never be duplicated over a screen. In person, we can read body language, look into each other eyes and touch. This fills our hearts and releases vital chemicals that are feel good chemicals and we love to feel good, right? Screen time is just not the same. Who cares how many likes you’re getting when you can’t even laugh hysterically while hugging your girlfriend? When prisoners are in solitary confinement, it’s considered the worst form of punishment (aside the death penalty) because they’re being deprived of one of the most essential human needs – human touch. Your mind goes crazy and plays games on you. You’re forced to really think about things that may make you fearful. It’s detrimental to your psyche to say the least.
At this moment we have no choice but to reach out to our loved ones over a phone or computer. We have to keep 6 feet apart at grocery stores and we can’t be with more than 5 people at a time at a gathering (and only with those we know who haven’t been around anyone who may be infected or have been exposed to someone infected with the virus). I’m all for these guidelines because our life depends on it, but damn, it’s killing me some days. Once the mandated isolation lifts we will have to slowly and carefully reintroduce ourselves into social settings and the work place but eventually, we can be with our groups of friends and family and when that time comes I hope we make space on our calendars regularly to connect in person and dial a phone number instead of text a quick, not-so-meaningful message.
I hope you never forget how lonely this time has been and how much you wished you could be sitting next to your friend at yoga class, chatting in the breakroom with your favorite coworker and playing music at a family cookout. I hope you can find the time you were never able to find before to make dinner plans with your best friends. I hope you set aside time and make it top priority to play that boardgame with your family after dinner and continue to take walks regularly while taking in the views of the sky and tree line instead of your screen. I hope you savor time sitting on your front porch with your neighbors and look one another in the eyes instead of half-listening while you text on your phone at the same time. Lord, I can’t stand that and I’ve definitely been guilty of that too. It’s easy to go back to normal and I understand that you want to go back to the way things were because that’s where our comfort zone is but, do you really want it all back to how it was before? How much normal do you want to go back to? You can leave the old ways of thinking you’re connected but end up still feeling lonely as you text and mindlessly scroll through Instagram and not actually truly engage in the past. You can make your new normal a way that brings true, meaningful connection and allows your soul to fill while you interact face to face. Yes! You get to choose what going back to normal looks like for you. Don’t miss this opportunity to start a new normal because your life depends on it.