(This week, we lost the incredible Bill Withers. His music served to lift up those in trouble or despair. He looked at the human connection and penned lyrics and music to capture moments in time and the needs faced. His music will continue to live on)
With the “stay at home” and quarantine mandates in place across the US currently, the doors have opened wide for social media living. Celebrities and the average Joe/Joanne are posting more, streaming differently, taking favorite food polls and playing the ISpy camera game. Filling the time with some sort of connection lent itself very easily to social media.
And while the thousands of books regarding introverts and extroverts tell varying tales of interaction and meaning, as people, we long for some sort of connection. That connection doesn’t have to be in the dozens (or hundreds) as some extroverts might enjoy; it can absolutely be in just one or two close relationships. FaceTime, Zoom, etc. have helped to foster such connection. Virtual happy hours have been the rage over the last couple of weeks, with tons of posts showing how elated people seem to be with the techno-boozing.
And yet, the unintentional distance that may be produced through these engagements is real. Portraying happiness and stability might be the current norm in social media posting. Being vulnerable enough to “cry in your beer” while having a happy hour would seem out of place and a downer on the rest of the team/group. The fear of being too real is itself real.
Even in the social agreement that this time is hard, there is a perceived decorum to how we should be offering and expressing our feelings. If someone is not able to be authentic in the manner with which we’ve socially decided behavior and responsiveness should be, then that person runs the risk of moving into a deeper sense of isolation, insecurity and possible depression. The virtual social norms in place judge the participants. Have those norms taken place in your online social group efforts?
Be sensitive to those in the “room.” Who is participating? Is the room safe to share? Are we intentional about authentic connection or is it just to say we’ve connected? Not every physically distant social interaction has to lend itself to a forum for gut-wrenching engagement but be sure there are some. You need to connect at that level; others may need to connect with you at that level. Foster an opportunity for a depth of connection, at least in part, during the week. It’s very easy to lose someone because of the feigned expectation of stability.
Check in with purpose. Look, it’s cool that you’ve baked a pie from scratch or made a TikTok video with 1,000 views in 24 hours. That’s all good (well, maybe). However, we need to ask, “How are you doing?” The most basic of questions, yes, but ask it with the most caring of inflection and intention. Ask to know not merely to say you’ve asked it. This time is a mental strain for many as much as anything else. Your ability to connect is a tool to combat that strain.
Keep hanging in there. Rally with at least one person with whom you can share how you are really handing things. You may need to do so through video, but do it nonetheless. We all need it and we all need to offer a safe place to do so.