HAS YOUR LIFE BECOME TOO VIRTUAL?
No surprise, 2020 has been dubbed “Year of the Virtual Event.” Schools, offices, and churches; family reunions, vacations, sports seasons, and annual community events; conferences, walkathons, and galas—all have struggled to salvage what they could in the face of pandemic health concerns. The Zoom meeting is better than nothing, but most people are eager to reclaim the three-dimensional, all-five-senses atmosphere of in-person gatherings. As of this writing, we’re moving in that direction but braced for fresh shutdowns as COVID-19 cases rise once more.
Pros and Cons of Going Virtual
Widespread emergencies aside, the industrialized world has faced the question of “face to face or screen to screen?” for some years. For interviews, short business meetings, and many organized programs, virtual can be the best choice. Participants save the time (and carbon footprint) of commuting; there’s less expense and trouble for organizers; and things usually run smoother and faster.
On the other hand—especially where small-talk networking has played a major part—virtual meetings sacrifice much camaraderie and increase a sense of isolation for extroverted participants. Introverts have their own discomforts: everyone can see when they enter, when they leave, and whether their hair is adequately combed. Technology and background decor are no longer the organizer’s concern alone: anybody can experience interference at any time from a break in the connection, or an embarrassing sight or sound. You even have to brew your own coffee.
And of course, households with children have special concerns. Especially if there are two parents and three kids needing virtual links for work and school all at once.
Virtual Households, United Families
Specifics of how to handle necessary virtual events are up to you and your contact circles. But if your home—your best in-person resource—has everyone getting lost in their own virtual worlds, it may be time for remedial steps.
- Schedule regular “no-screen” family time, preferably at least one meal a day and one meeting a week. Make sure you get input from everyone, rather than plant resentment and uncooperativeness by forcing your own ideal.
- Give virtual meetings a “family event” feel. Where everyone is invited, make refreshments and sit close. Consider also where you can let your children listen in (or even visibly sit in) on your business programs, and where you can do the same for their school classes: learning about each other’s work fosters family togetherness. (If your office hasn’t hosted a virtual “Take Your Kids to Work” day, propose one yourself.)
- Make a family learning project of solving technical-communications difficulties. Let the kids teach you about computers.
- Where family members need legitimate space from each other, suggest off-screen activities such as reading, model-building, or gardening.
- Do get out of the house as a family every week. Even where quarantine rules are strictest, you can take a walk, visit the grocery store, or have an in-the-car picnic.
- Always keep sharing love and talking about concerns. In any situation, strong personal connections are the glue that holds families together!