Humans were designed to be social animals, and so for some of us this lockdown has forced us to consider how we communicate with each other.
For some of the introverts out there, a lockdown is quite good news. They no longer need to interact with people unless they want to. But for the rest of us, there is a very real risk of loneliness setting in. We thrive with human contact, and when we can’t have adult conversations with people then it’s hard. This is especially true for those that have been furlonged and are not getting any interaction through work channels anymore.
So what can be done for those of us who desperately want to both talk to and see people outside of their own household?
Our old interactive life
Think back (if you dare) to your life in February before any of this madness started.
Something typical might have been this….
You went to work, went to the gym, went to the shops, met up with friends, visited family. You hugged, gave high-fives, rode your bike for hours and hours with friends, stopped in coffee shops for a chat and a giggle.
However you normally spend your life, there is social interaction all through the day. Maybe going out for your ride, run, walk or swim was actually your downtime, your time to be alone and disconnect with the world. Now just a month later, your ride, run or walk is now the only way you get to connect with the outside world.
I saw a meme recently that summed up the change quite nicely
Welcome to the power of the internet
For technologically minded people, and the younger generation – most of those younger than me, the lockdown has simply increased the amount of time spent on social media platforms. I have no idea which platforms they use. I understand that Tik Tok is a thing?! They keep in touch, WhatsApp each other, the young were more used to spending time with each other online anyhow.
Others are either sitting at home lonely, browsing social media groups on Facebook, or avoiding it entirely if they are trying to avoid bad news & anxiety. For many of us, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are all we know. But there are new kids on the block now that can break this tedium, and get you connected to each other.
I say they are new, but many have been around for a while but just not used by the Facebook crowd.
Disconnected families & friends are starting to embrace video conferencing apps in a way that was previously confined to business use only.
There seem to be 3 main contenders vying for top position currently.
Houseparty – this seems to be more of a general social media platform, like a video version of Facebook messenger groups. You can see when someone is online, and link up with them via video. I’ve not found a way to schedule hangouts, so personally, I’ve not used it.
Google Hangouts Meet – this has a free version, but allegedly is a little basic unless paid for. It comes as part of your Google membership, so it could be worth a try. I haven’t yet tried it though.
Zoom – This historically has been aimed at businesses, but has a very functional free version. You can get together with 100 others for a max of 40 minutes for free. You can schedule meetings, and even record them if you wish. If you want to extend beyond 40 minutes simply schedule another meeting straight afterward and you’re good to go. Sometimes it lets you extend beyond the 40 minutes anyway.
The picture quality is great, and this week I’ve used it twice. It’s always a bit weird seeing yourself back on the screen and when everyone is using it for the first time, there are the inevitable cases of people dropping off due to pressing the wrong setting or being heard but not seen or vice versa. But these issues are quickly resolved
The lockdown has forced me to look to different methods of communication, and as a result, I’ve found that in some cases they’ve proved more useful and I won’t be going back.
Zoom meetings have now replaced my weekly Facebook Live session that I used previously for a course that I run. The limitation to Facebook live was that only I could speak and everyone else could only comment – and that caused a delay or awkward silences. Zoom for an education setting is great.
Tonight we experimented with it, and have decided that it’s the way to do. Four of us were on the meeting, which meant that students who didn’t know each other, finally got to see and hear each other, even though some were 100 miles away. The meeting was much more interactive, and for a change, I wasn’t the one that had to do all the talking. We had a giggle, and that gets lost on a Facebook live. I was able to record the session and post it on our Facebook group for others that couldn’t attend. It didn’t require any kind of file conversion as it creates the recording as an MP4. We won’t be going back to Facebook lives on this group again for these sessions. So that’s a clear winner for a lockdown discovery.
On Wednesday night, I scheduled a new Zoom meeting for a different reason. Our Tri group used to meet 5 times during the week, and for some of the members who live alone, it was a key source of outside work human interaction. With the lockdown and all group exercise banned, this social lifeline was taken away from us. A suggestion that we get together on Zoom at least once a week was, therefore, greeted with enthusiasm by a number of the group. So now, Wednesday evening is our Tri Group Hangout. It was great to chat, and compare lockdown stories. Some of us noted how much weight we had gained now that our exercise levels had dropped off, while our food consumption increased with being at home. I have gained 1/2 stone, undoing months of hard work. I vow to increase my home exercise and be more careful with the munchies!!
There was some enthusiasm to try to run a turbo session with Zoom, Coach has said he will look into it.
A new form of social cycling
While many of us lament the absence of long outdoor rides or runs during the lockdown, it has meant that there’s now more interest in hosting group ‘virtual’ rides.
Some apps give a host the opportunity to create their own routes based on real-life places. The RGT Cycling app is one such app. Now you get to ride routes that you wouldn’t normally be able to get to, with people you can’t normally ride with. I’m very excited to be riding a section on the Race Around the Netherlands on Sunday afternoon, with some of the people that would have been riding it in real life next month. If all goes well, we’ll be trying other sections too. When we do eventually get to do the ride for real, it will hopefully then start to feel familiar.
Another friend has put together a route based on the 35 mile Isle of Man TT route. Normally pretty dangerous for cycles, but as a virtual ride it will be traffic-free, and I’m hoping fabulous.
Reach out, take a seat, grab a cuppa
Lockdown doesn’t need to be lonely if we can embrace the technology at our fingertips. The beauty of the situation is that we don’t need to worry about interrupting people as there’s a pretty good chance that they aren’t doing much anyway. We are all rushing around less at the moment, so when someone calls, just grab a seat and a cuppa and have a chat. Switch to FaceTime if you like so that you can see that there is a real person behind the voice so that you can see someone’s smile.
A smile may be just what someone who is on their own needs right now. A reminder that there is a world outside the front door, and that we will survive this.
There’s never been a better time to reach out to our friends. Don’t stop communicating. In some cases, this could bring us closer to some people, despite social distancing. This distancing is physical but doesn’t need to be emotional as well. We may not have the human touch that some of us crave, but we can still get together, laugh, smile and connect.
We are all alone, TOGETHER!