For those of us who choose or need to stay in isolation during the pandemic, being alone is a factor that cannot be ignored. On the one hand, the need to protect one’s physical health is obvious. But, on the other hand, being by oneself all or most of the time can be negative to mental health.
Many of us are social animals. Regardless of whether you’re introverted or extroverted, human interaction is natural to varying degrees. And we could all certainly use a hug these days—even if virtually.
As an older member of the LGBTQ+ community, I interact with a large number of people who no longer run with the pack. They once frequented bars or were in relationships, but that’s no longer the case. Absent families and children, social isolation is an issue further exacerbated by the stay at home order.
When I speak with them by telephone, the majority report they have not tried video conferencing. Smartphones, something taken for granted by the younger set, are not as common with elderly members of the community. Likewise, many don’t have webcams (if they own a computer or laptop at all). Before you judge, remember, many of us were born long before the era of calculators or even Google.
One friend jokingly referred to himself as a “shut in.” For those of a certain age or with underlying medical conditions, that can be a necessity. The choice between visiting others and being vulnerable to a virus is not an easy one. Social distancing is the new safe sex.
The World of Video Conferencing
Very early on in the pandemic, I was introduced to Zoom, the application that has zoomed to the forefront of the video conferencing revolution. It’s often now seen in use on television news and talk shows. There are many alternatives to Zoom, and it has had its own issues with security (a problem the company addressed in record time). Nevertheless, it has emerged as the frontrunner in terms of usage.
I’m involved with an international travel group. With cities and countries locked down, and travel largely suspended, they foresaw the need to bring people together in new ways. Meetings and trainings were hastily arranged. It didn’t take long for me to get the hang of it, and like anything else, the more I used it, the more I learned about its power.
It’s actually simple enough that I was able to walk a friend through installation and set-up remotely, despite the fact this person does not consider himself technically inclined. But he was able to do it, as have most everyone I’ve helped. Attitude seems to be the greatest predictor of success or failure. Those who get frustrated and give up easily are destined to a self-fulfilling prophecy that it doesn’t work.
Look, nothing in life is easy. As a young man, I read a quote that stuck with me: “Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent,” by former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge.
The payoff can be great. Video conferencing enables socially distant face-to-face communication. It’s oddly satisfying to see other human beings at this time—to see their facial expressions, body language, and gestures. To hear and see them laugh. Sure, it’s not the same, but it may be the next best thing.
And it brings a genuine human connection. There’s a bond that forms when two people look each other in the eye that can’t be matched by telephone, text, or email. I understand the irony here—that people who video conference are not actually together—yet the illusion is extremely powerful.
Business Usage Soars
In addition to one-to-one communication, video conferencing’s real power lies in one-to-many communication. Group chats and meetings have become commonplace now that many companies encourage people to work remotely.
These internal dialogues help businesses operate at a safe distance: to plan, reinvent, and adapt at a time when sudden change is the new normal. Many of the popular video conferencing platforms also allow the speaker to share their screen so that others can view plans, drawings, or even slideshow presentations.
If two people need a private chat, some of the programs allow them to enter a virtual private room separate from the larger group. Their conversation is private; it’s the equivalent of stepping outside away from the main conversation. People can also chat via text to send links, email addresses, or other data.
One of the biggest opportunities for businesses going forward is to use video conferencing for sales or support. This solution may not be apparent to restaurants and bars, but its use is clear for consultants and those in sales with the ability to ship products.
That said, the venerable Commander’s Palace has figured out how to make it work. They offer a revolutionary wine and cheese tasting perfectly adapted for the new age. The restaurant sells and delivers wine and cheese to guests, who later join a video conference for a guided tasting.
Sound far-fetched? They’re breaking records with sales at a time when others are suffering.
The bottom line: nobody enjoys the situation in the world today. With a little persistence and determination, and a good attitude, however, we can make it work as well as can be humanly expected.