Connecting in the Age of Social Distancing

March 29, 2020

I have barely stepped outside of my residence in a week, unless to go for a quick walk or run. I’ve been having dinner with friends over the popular video communication platform, Zoom; attending my classes over Zoom; giving presentations over Zoom; and having work and team meetings over Zoom. All this due to the global push to control the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

As a graduate student trying to develop meaningful relationships and connections for personal and career growth, this new digital environment poses a new challenge. Instead of worrying about arriving on time to a meeting or interview, I worry about logging in on time and depending on adequate internet service to make that possible. Instead of thinking about giving a firm handshake and maintaining eye contact when meeting and interacting with new people, I have to make sure that my computer camera isn’t blurry and that I am in a quiet place with no distracting sounds or objects in the background.

This divergence from the normal human connection makes me reflect on the missed opportunities to connect in normal life when an opportunity was presented. Mundane events such as giving a hug and/or handshake or meeting acquaintances are replaced by screens with which we have to replicate our interactions through this new channel.

This new challenge in developing relationships presents an opportunity to embrace a new way to actively seek out meaningful connections. This means structuring conversations that allow us to have pertinent questions answered and gives us insight into our personal growth. This might be a great time to revamp your professional social media network such as LinkedIn; connect with people in fields of your interest; send them questions, emails, or invitations to chat virtually; and/or read interesting articles within your field of interest. Social media is not only another way to connect with professional figures but also to reconnect with old friends, relatives and family members, and former colleagues. 

During this period of isolation, I have found new ways to keep myself occupied. Whether through journaling, reading, watching shows and movies, and occasionally playing video games with friends online. These are some ways that make me feel less enclosed in this new space of social distancing whilst improving my focus and creativity during this period. Time is a luxury that many people, especially students, now have so it’s best to use it to our benefit. 

Start that project, finish that book, learn a new skill, reach out to that person, and above all stay positive during these uncertain times.

Edem Yevoo, I-House Resident (2019-2020), Intercultural Programming and Administrative Assistant, Robertson Center for Intercultural Leadership (CIL).