I will admit it. I’ve always had a healthy skepticism for social media, chat rooms, and the like.
Maybe it’s because I am a Gen-Xer, a generation enthusiastically committed to remaining suspicious and unimpressed. Or maybe it’s the fact that I was raised on the Three Golden Rules of Social Etiquette (as defined by my slightly Southern mom): Don’t air your laundry in public; don’t discuss politics in mixed company; and, above all else, value and protect your privacy (or, more colloquially, “Mind Your Own Biscuits”).
However, my curiosity finally won out, and in the late 2000s I cautiously dipped my toe into the social media pool. As a journalist, my need to observe, record, and take part in this seismic societal trend superseded the trepidation I’d been clutching to my chest like a warm, fuzzy blanket. Even more compelling, and very much undeniable, was my innate desire to remain in step with, and connected to, society at large.
I’m only human, after all. No matter which generation we’re born into or whether we’re introverts, extroverts, or somewhere in between, there is not a human on earth who isn’t driven by the need to connect with others. We’re communal beings. We need to love and be loved. We yearn for empathy, kindness, caring, and understanding. We need our tribe to survive.
Now we find ourselves tossed into the abyss of a global pandemic. In order to increase our chances of survival, we’ve been asked to physically disconnect from society and our extended social circle. In the blink of an eye, we’ve been thrust into a survival mode that evolution never prepared us for.
We’ve been left to our own devices, literally and figuratively speaking. Suddenly even the most technologically challenged among us are discovering the wonders of connecting via social media, video conferences, email, WhatsApp, FaceTime, and, yes, even the ever-reliable telephone. We’re counting the days, hours, and minutes based on how often we’re in touch.
Global communities are growing and blossoming. We’re forging emotional connections with people hundreds and thousands of miles away through video diaries and online sessions. We’re sharing our deepest fears, anxieties, and much-needed comic relief via social media posts. We’re meeting colleagues in foreign countries on Microsoft Teams and Zoom calls. We’re watching videos of families laughing, singing, and building astounding indoor worlds as they utilize their time together to bond through creativity and imagination.
And, yes, many of us are utilizing technology to stay on top of our mental health. For a great example of using Facebook Live to create a connection, our founder Corey Blake has been doing a lot of very meaningful and worthwhile sessions on his Facebook page.
What we’re not doing is retreating. Despite curfews, isolation, and overwhelming uncertainty, we forge ahead in stalwart fashion determined to do exactly what our primal instincts demand of us—share our stories with one another. After all, if we don’t, how do we know what’s real? How do we process what’s happening? How do we reflect, dissect, and make meaning of our thoughts and daily lives? Most importantly, how do we make sure we’re giving and receiving love?
The human experience is so intertwined and love such a driving force that we don’t have much of a choice. So we turn to our tech devices. We no longer dismiss virtual media as a luxury of time or distraction. Now it’s counted on to create distraction. Distraction from isolation, loneliness, and anxiety. We’re finding comfort, hope, and love in its virtual embrace. We sing. We dance. We write. We share.
And it doesn’t matter whether it’s for an audience of one or one million. It doesn’t matter that screens, earbuds, and computers separate us. What does matter is the knowledge that we’re seen, heard, and felt. We understand that our fellow humans are out there. Waiting for us. Listening to us. Sympathizing with us. Loving us.