By: Matt Boness
The day begins. My cell phone alarm goes off. I look for any urgent notifications before taking our dog out and starting the coffee. I read a few passages from my bible app while enjoying my breakfast. A quick check of my email, Twitter, and Facebook before my boys break the silence with their presence. An email sent off here and a quick text to check on how a friend is doing. First mug of coffee done. Boys are awake. Refill my mug.
I’ve looked at a screen 6-7 times in the first hour I am awake most mornings. I don’t say that to then tell you how I wish I was doing better at this. I am not going to say that I wish my mornings were spent with more quiet, less social media and screen time. Because to be honest, the first hour of my day is the quietest hour I get until our house is dark and the moon is high above. I choose to spend my morning time that way. At this moment of our lives, our connection to others is mostly virtual. A message to a friend early in the morning is what I have since I can’t sit down face-to-face over coffee. My connection to God through my bible app is easier to navigate with two thumbs than flipping through 1000 pages to find where my thumbs left off the day before. Believe it or not, the words on my screen remain the same as the printed words in the good book. Technology. What a world we live in.
Collectively, our game nights are spent on Zoom, playing Kahoot trivia instead of Monopoly. The small group, that used to come together over a meal in our house every Wednesday, now meets over the glow of computer screens. Still on Wednesday. Still at our normal time. No cleaning involved. We have a Facebook group for our neighborhood, this month there have been 25 posts compared to 19 total for the whole month of April in 2019. For you math nerds, that’s a 32% increase.
We are a people wired for connection. Our connection nowadays just happens to be wired. We all relish the days when we can get back to sitting in an office with our coworkers. We want to casually grab a coffee without rushing away before the next customer awkwardly stands a foot closer than social norms would suggest. We want to get back to movies on big screens, feet firmly stuck to the floor because the last soda that occupied that space rebelled too against its barriers. We don’t want to keep feeling like standing six feet away from someone means they judge us for thinking that they are the sick one when they are thinking the same about us. We want to get back to normalcy.
And yet, here we are. Maybe seeing a light at the end of the tunnel but most certainly facing another twelve months of uncertainty. As people of connection, we can’t wait another twelve months. Our minds, our hearts, our very nature were not meant to be disconnected for so long. You can save your examples of the very few among us living isolated lives on some long forgotten island for the last 25 years, I’ve heard them. The truth is we need each other more than we normally like to admit.
I am an introvert through and through. I get social anxiety just thinking about what I might say when I hypothetically introduce myself to that new person at church who may or may not be there. Yet staying alone in my house for days on end gives me cabin fever. I love the airport because I love being around people and watching the weird way humans do things. I love the buzz of a coffee shop. I need people around, even if it’s not necessarily in close contact. Even an introvert desires other people.
With reality being virtual how do we meaningfully connect in virtual reality and maybe continue to foster some kind of community out of it? Here are some ways that have worked for me or ways that I have heard others are connecting during this time.
Say what you will about this controversial of social media platforms, but there is a reason so many of us are on it every day.
- As stated above, our neighborhood has a Facebook group. What begins as a casual request to borrow a lawn mower in the group, turns into a physical transaction of goods. There is helpfulness, gratitude and a closeness of community through one small action.
- Most of your favorite artists, authors, speakers, etc. are hosting daily/weekly/monthly streams to Facebook Live. Not only do you get to see your favorite artist in an intimate setting, you can connect with the other fans through chat features and feel as though you are back at that festival swaying to the music.
- A five minute scroll of your timeline probably just inserted 20 opportunities for you to connect with friends and family who posted photos of their new dog, a journal of their parenting struggles, some weird conspiracy post, two posts about coffee, and an exercise routine that your great aunt swears is the best things since sliced bread.
Facebook offers connection, believe it or not. We don’t have to love the site to get the connection we desire from it.
2. YouVersion Bible App
I alluded to reading my bible on my phone most mornings. The great thing about the YouVersion bible app is that you can still do bible studies with friends. You can connect on the same reading plan or bible study and converse back and forth through a chat function as to what you are learning, what is really hitting you hard and how the bible passages are impacting your life at the moment. Obviously, you can call each other and chat about the bible studies as well.
3. Marco Polo
This app works kind of like a video walkie-talkie. You connect with those in your phone contacts, either in a curated group or individually and then you can send video chats back and forth to friends and family. The benefit of this over something like Facetime, is that you don’t always have to be available for a long chat to send a quick snippet of your cat to your best friend. We send 10 second clips of my kids being insane to my 96-year old grandma in California and she gets to experience a little more of normal life while she isolates mostly alone. You can let the videos sit until you have time to view them in successive order or watch live as your friends send you videos that are being recorded in real time.
I saved the most obvious for last. Most of us have used video chat more in the the last month than we ever, but seriously, isn’t it awesome!? Obviously it doesn’t replace being together with someone, but it is just about the next best thing. Plus, for someone like me who doesn’t love spontaneous conversations most of the time (remember, introvert here), you can schedule your calls and chats to mentally prepare for the interaction. What introvert doesn’t love that?
There is a myriad of ways to connect with our community during this time. We are lucky to live in a day and age of technology that didn’t even exist five years ago. Our challenge now, is to use it for the benefit of our health, our families and our communities so that we don’t just survive but thrive until things return to normal. We’d love to hear how you are staying connected in the comment space below.