Until the COVID-19 pandemic struck, most of us simply took ‘hangouts’ with our friends and families for granted. We would be reckless with our cellphones – answering texts in the middle of conversations, scrolling social media during meetings, checking emails at the dinner table. We would often crave the instant gratification of resolving a text notification or deleting a stray email.
Today, we find ourselves in an opposite scenario. In order to engage with our loved ones, we’ve had to shift our world from a physical one to a virtual one. Offices have turned into Zoom conferences. Dinner dates have transitioned into Skype sessions. Snuggling on a couch, watching movies together, has become ‘Netflix parties’ with chat rooms to share witty commentary. Board game nights have converted into multi-player computer games. In fact, this is the first time I have felt that technology has truly strengthened my relationships and personal connections rather than detracted from them, and I feel a newfound gratitude for these devices.
Nonetheless, our time in quarantine has perhaps been an overload of technology. A running joke is that our day proceeds as “small screen, small screen, medium screen, medium screen, small screen, big screen, big screen, small screen.” Perhaps we are no longer ‘instantly gratified’ by the same things that once pleased us. I know that personally, I crave physical companionship. I crave someone’s eyes focused on mine as I tell a story. I crave laughing alongside a friend until our bellies ache together.
I guess, in the meantime, we must find allies in unlikely places. Perhaps even places like Nature. Without a doubt, this shelter-in-place has revived my relationship with the outdoors. Every day, I go running with Papa outside on a trail that loops around our neighbourhood. I leave my phone at home and instead marvel at the outside world – the flowers that I have seen bloom from buds to blossoms, the weeds that are fighting tooth-and-nail to overtake one another, the black birds with bright red neck feathers that caw sweetly to one another from adjacent trees… I can sit outside for hours in our patio chairs, staring at our lemon tree and its abundant and selfless production of fruit. I love the feeling of the sun tickling my legs and the sound of the wind whipping around me. Nature has been my strength during this seemingly infinite quarantine, and I hope that it provides the same comfort to others also overwhelmed by screens and isolation.
I’m curious about how the world will adapt when we hit un-pause, when we pick back up at the quick pace of everyday life as we had before. How will we readjust to intimate, physical gatherings? Will we simply be grateful for our renewed in-person relationships, quickly remembering the beauty of hugs and human warmth? I hope so. I hope we appreciate the things we didn’t notice before quarantine and the things we found during quarantine.
This is a defining moment. And how we act going forward has the potential to change our attitudes and priorities for good.