All Zoomed Out
While virtual social interactions have increased significantly over the pandemic era, it seems that they still cannot fill the void of physical interactions in the real world. This simple statement is very obvious and doesn't sound so profound. What began as a novelty has now turned into something somewhat tiresome.
This void is not just because of the senses that we now forgo in the interaction experience like touch, smell. It is not just because the experience may include technical drawbacks: poor connectivity, low resolution and weak audio. It is also not just because it rids of the possibility of making a spontaneous decision to take the interaction to the next level: like, why don't we get a cup of coffee or take a walk. The virtual experience, well, it's binary. Now you do it, and now you don't. But mostly, nothing is the same: the visual clues, the proximity, the nuances.
"I have met so many times with friends virtually," my friend told me, "In fact, I have met with friends from different places that I haven't spoken to in years. But, it is simply not the same. I end the call feeling more lonely."
"For me, these social interactions have begun to feel like meetings, only thing is, for work I change my PJ top for a regular shirt," says another friend.
"I am all zoomed out," a third friend told me with a sigh. "Call me when this is over, and then I will crawl out of my shell."
I get it. I get the camera fatigue and shyness. I get the yearning for the way we were. I get the inherent underlying question: what if this is as good as it is going to get?
There are no solutions in this post. These virtual social interactions should be seen as placeholders until the pandemic has passed. They may work better and better technically over time, or we may find our rhythm and carve out optimal social sessions that do not leave us cringing with frustration. And, if we are zoomed out — you know what — it's absolutely OK to take a break, a vacation from social interaction. We did that before COVID-19 too.
Truth is, we can all take some time to wind down and zoom out. We can use the time to release the tension and focus on healing and growth.
Virtual social interactions can wait, I have a date with myself.