10 Lessons From A Digitally Interactive Existence
For the last few months, life has looked very different...through the lens of an electronic screen. But life goes on! Here are a few patterns I've discovered along the way. What we keep and what we ultimately learn remains to be seen.
1) Doing our work, volunteer stuff, celebrations, book clubs and exercise classes virtually makes for a long day.
As nice as it might be to stay in your yoga pants all day and not have to commute, studies have shown it might not be as wonderful as it seems. According to a New York Times article on April 29th called "Why Zoom Is Terrible," the inherent delays and distortions of video communication can leave you feeling fatigued, isolated, anxious and even more disconnected. Not to mention being "on," often for a full hour or more, whether or not you are the one speaking. For those of us fortunate enough to keep our employment going from home, Zoom work during the day is often followed by Zoom volunteer committee meetings, Bible Study fellowships or friends' birthday parties in the evening. Not to mention the moms also managing online school, ballet lessons and graduations. It's a good idea to balance by engaging in something creative and physical with your hands...like sewing masks, gardening or learning to do brush calligraphy (sounds silly, but this is actually quite relaxing!). Getting outside for exercise, even in the Southern summer heat, is a no brainer. (for full article, see link below)
2) Some people care a lot more about the "set" than others.
In preparation for the first few Zoom calls that suddenly replaced regular meetings on my calendar, I scoped out two spots in our condo offering pretty good backgrounds -- a brightly colored painting behind our dining room table and the blue gallery wall in our home office. I carefully removed extra clutter from the camera shot and made sure the lighting was good. On those days, I also washed/styled my hair and put on makeup (confession...this does not happen every day...not going anywhere). Eye opener!! A handful of us were doing the same -- plus some using pre-made backgrounds of beach scenes or the Golden Gate Bridge, some sitting on their patios in the dark, some on the move, sort of in the frame on their cell phones. Some lounging on a couch or sitting at a kitchen table. So is my effort wasted? I don't think so. And if I push the laptop back far enough, my crow's feet look a lot smoother.
3) We all should have invested in Zoom stock back in February.
I had used Zoom a few times before the world shut down, but NEVER had it crossed my mind to check into their stock. For the record, I had also used the similar platforms of Skype, GoToMeeting, FreeConference, WebEx and Bluejeans over the years. It NEVER crossed my mind to check into their stock, either. Not sure how Zoom surged to the front of that line literally overnight, but they did. Good for them! Malcolm Gladwell could probably add a chapter to The Tipping Point on that phenomenon.
4) Things that used to be considered tacky are now the accepted norm.
Before March 2020, would we have ever worn a ball cap and sweats to a sales meeting? Carried our cat into the conference room? Eaten lunch in front of others who weren't also eating, or without offering them some? Walked in while someone was interviewing for a job or counseling an employee...or walked out while someone was speaking to get a cup of coffee? Presented a proposal from the guest bedroom? Entered a room sporting a professional photo mask, thereby hiding our facial expressions or pajamas? If any of this behavior feels odd, we don't call it out. Because we're all in this together, trying to keep it together.
5) We're now conditioned to default to Zoom or FaceTime for pretty much all conversation.
No excuses for not participating or regularly staying in touch. No more conflicts because you are out of town. Those relatives you only see once every five years? They now want to do a monthly Zoom party. You used to dial up your assistant/boss/friend/co-worker/board chair/sister on the phone, and now you seek out the closest screen so you can see each other while talking. Even in the car (as a passenger, of course).
6) It doesn't work perfectly every time...or maybe ever.
As technologically savvy as we might be after months of Zooming regularly, it still takes the first 5-10 minutes of each virtual call to resolve technical issues. Where's Dan? Is he joining us? Oh...he just texted and said he's having trouble getting on. Can someone please send him the meeting code or link again? Sally, we can't hear you...unmute! Oh - Diana is just a photo today - she must not want us to see her or see where she is right now. Mark is just a black name screen, or wait, two black name screens? We can hear you but you can't hear us? OK...let's get started.
7) Although more efficient, the "small talk" is missing.
When you only see your people once a week or once every two weeks or once a month, there is a lighthearted dance that occurs before and after the intended purpose of the gathering, filling in the sweet spaces between the agenda and the action items. Someone has a new grandchild, a new hairstyle, a new pair of shoes. Someone else has brought in donuts or it's his/her birthday. Yet another has just returned from a fabulous vacation or brought a new dish to share, along with the recipe if anyone wants it. Can you believe how awful the traffic was today? Can you believe that game last Saturday??!? This is the stuff that deepens relationships.
8) No one told me I have a turkey neck...
As many sales meetings and board meetings and committee meetings and social gatherings as I have participated in over a lifetime, it suddenly dawned on me that before Zoom entered my life on a daily basis, I've been looking out of my eyes onto the faces of others. Rarely, if ever, simultaneously looking into my own eyes back at myself. So that's what my hair looks like to other people? Is it time for me to consider a little cosmetic surgery? Whose wobbly arms are waving around...are those mine?? Yikes!
9) My family likes the idea of gathering on Zoom more than they actually like doing it.
When multiple generations are attempting to connect the only way possible when some of us are elderly and the rest of us are scattered across vast geography, Zoom seems like the perfect solution. Yay! We can still be together for Mimi's birthday or Father's Day!! Sounds really good in theory...but it's never quite that simple, so any dose of patience comes in handy. (Which is actually good advice for any family gathering, not just the Zoom version.) Also see #6 but add about 20 more minutes.
10) My friends have adapted to happy hour on Zoom quite nicely!
Pour yourself a glass of wine, plug in from wherever you are, come as you are. Please...I miss you. And it sure beats not getting together at all.
Cheers..."see" you soon?