At some point in 2020, as homebound life started to seem less like a blip and more like the new normal, I started to dread one common phrase: “Let’s have a Zoom date!”
Ugh. Really? Please don’t make me.
Like so many of us, I was living cut off from my usual routines and the friends who are a part of them.
I deeply missed my community. But the idea of staring into a computer at the faces I so longed to see in real life struck me as worse than the pain of longing for them.
Couldn’t we just wait for this COVID nonsense to be over and then make up for the lost time in a few months?
Then, of course, it wasn’t just another few months.
As time stretched on, I began to soften my stance on Zoom.Book club and wine dates with friends got moved online.
There was Zoom Thanksgiving, Zoom graduations and more than one Zoom funeral.
None was anywhere near as good as the real thing, but all were infinitely better than nothing.
At the same time, the strangest thing started happening—my relationships with friends and family started getting…better. Lots better.
Once I broke through my resentment of virtual communication as inferior, I started accepting it for what it is and using it in new ways.
I made more regular phone dates. I reconnected with old high school classmates.
I got closer to friends I hadn’t spoken to in years. And I realized I didn’t have much to say to others I used to see all the time.
It was as if the sheer awkwardness of virtual interactions created a usefully high bar: If you wanted to stay in real touch with someone, you had to really work for it and they did too.
As a result, the connections were richer, more purposeful, more explicitly meaningful because we both had more skin in the game.
Once you are on FaceTime or Zoom or Skype, there are fewer places to hide than in real life.
All that forced vulnerability can result in some true breakthroughs in intimacy.
I’m not going to pretend virtual communication is notinferior to the real-life kind.
It totally is! I want to see my friends and loved ones in the flesh!
I want to hug them and go out to dinner with them and get them to order the thing I want to try so I can steal a bite.
But there is a sense of structure and intentionality to how I find myself showing up in my friendships now that I hope to preserve.
How about you? Have you felt any silver lining benefit to virtual life? Let us know in the comments!
Elizabeth is a journalist who has been writing about health, beauty and wellness for over 20 years. She lives in Northern New Mexico with her two dogs and several hundred trees, shrubs, bushes and succulents.
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