Digital interactions are nothing new. For the past couple of decades or so, we have had access to AOL Chat Rooms (RayneDreem@aol.com used to be my ScreenName), MySpace, Facebook, FaceTime, etc. Until now, these platforms have been a novelty. A luxury, even. But never have we been in a scenario that leaves these avenues as our ONLY option for maintaining relationships- personal and professional. With the COVID-19 Pandemic, Digital Connection became vital overnight. Although it can in NO WAY replace the satisfaction and need for face to face bonding, I have managed to find the Silver Lining on this unusual Cloud.
I am what our church would call a Youth Coach. I serve as a leader in our youth group with several other awesome adults, who have quickly become like family to me. I, along with a few other ladies, focus particularly on serving Middle School aged girls. These past couple of weeks, not seeing any of them has been a bit of a downer. I miss their energy and colorful perspective on life. I also worry about them. I generally feel like a vital part of me has been surgically (albeit temporarily) removed.
But then slowly, we started hearing more and more about people substituting their gatherings on Zoom! To my delight, our Youth Pastor jumped on board and we will be having our second group meeting tonight.
Beside that meeting, we have had several practice meetings with just the youth coaches (roughly 10 or more of us). During these times I have come to love Zoom. It’s still a budding relationship. We are exploring and adapting to this new dynamic. But one thing I have come to truly enjoy is THE POWER I have over these interactions.
1. “The Power! The Absolute Power!”-Jafar, Aladdin
I was incredibly nervous to do Zoom. If I must interact digitally, I prefer text. Being an Introvert however, I quickly noticed the advantages.
A.) I have the option of NOT letting people see me. That’s right! I can turn the video option OFF and still participate. I can see and hear everyone else, and they can only hear me. I have not yet used this escape hatch, because so far, I’ve been able to make myself presentable-ish.
B.) I control what you see! This time I’m talking about my surroundings/background. Sadly, my laptop is not new enough to accommodate the option of adding a green screen background- which could be anything, btw! Perhaps some of you have seen this teacher who now instructs from Hogwarts? I’m so jelly.
But I CAN create a set, so to speak. Instead of cleaning my entire house, I need only clean a space that will be seen in the rectangle of my camera. Now, I know I’m showing my hand here. But at the risk of you disowning me due to my messy room, I took a couple of pics to illustrate this for you. Because I love you. I do this for love. Remember that.
My bedroom is the last place to get cleaned, because only myself and hubby really see it. I store dirty laundry, don’t put things away, participate in Savage Stations (see previous post here), etc. You might even spot a tortilla on my dresser. (Don’t worry, it’s fresh. We just used it for communion while watching our church service online.) However, my bedroom has a lock on the door, and it’s the only place I can go where my 4 children won’t accidentally cameo the meeting half-dressed, with their latest disaster. So here it is. What my respected colleagues don’t see.
I know. I know. Some things you just can’t un-see. But more to my point. This is what they DO see.
Check out that gorgeous headboard! You even get a little bit of that trendy curtain on the side. If for some reason I need to walk away momentarily, you would notice a tidy nightstand with a candle lit behind me. I mean, I’ve totally blown my cover now. But it’s not too late for you…
C.) I can mute myself! During my meetings, my husband is left to manage the hoard of children living in my house. Although my door is shut and locked, it is not sound proof. Occasionally there might be a blood curdling scream, a cat screeching, loud bangs, my hubby’s booming ‘Big Daddy’ voice, attempting to control chaos through intimidation.
Things the kids from my youth group just don’t need to hear. So I subtly hit the mute button and smile through the armageddon that is clearly going down right outside my door.
2. Snooping is Acceptable
I am an observer, by nature. I have this insatiable desire to figure people out. Every interaction, content shared, tone of voice, body language, clothing choice, just anything and everything that widens the scope of who a person is, is like a drug to me.
Okay, so maybe not that level of creepy. But I had to throw in some Twilight. Yes, I am a fan. Another crime you can add to my rap sheet. I’m on fire today! #teamedward
Don’t pretend that you don’t get what I’m talking about here. We all have our own levels of curiosity. It’s human nature! And here, my friends, is a prime opportunity to SNOOP!
Cast aside the shame, these folks are granting permission to let you in. At least into their rectangle of visual representation. You get to see into their HOMES. Consider it a field trip while on lockdown.
Not only that, you get to see them. This may not seem any different from your normal face to face opportunity for observation. But here, no one knows if you’re looking directly at them, or at any of the other half a dozen or more people Brady-Bunching with you.
It takes the pressure off. I’ve noticed after 5 minutes in or so, people start relaxing and letting down their guard. Especially if someone else is talking. In a traditional space of meeting, everyone will focus on the speaker. But in Zoom, your boxes are all the same size and any movement in another box might draw your attention. Expressions and body language go unguarded. This may not be the case for everyone, but I love having access to a more raw version of someone.
3. Pants Don’t Matter!
I don’t recommend NOT wearing pants, because you never know when you might need to leap up. But you know what, that’s totally up to you. Today for my meeting, I would have normally worn jeans with my shirt. Then I thought, “But why?”
I knew I would be sitting for this meeting. Jeans aren’t the most comfortable of bottoms. So instead I threw on some mismatched loungy pants that I would never wear outside of my house. Because I could. Because Zoom is freedom. And no one is the wiser. Unless you’re me. Because now, potentially all of my zoommates will know. Will that stop me? Don’t count on it.
4. Your Pet Will Finally Get Their Day in the Sun!
Generally speaking, most of us are required to leave our animals at home. But Alas, NO MORE! Come one, come all! And we WANT to see your fur-babies! Because seeing animals feels goooood to our brains. Don’t believe me? There have been studies done that have found a link between seeing cute animal videos and our stress levels decreasing, among other benefits. You can read more about it here.
So next time Fido leaps onto your lap for a wet kiss, or Felix struts by in the background as if by accident (we’re onto you, cat…), let them. At least for a moment. Or until your host politely clears their throat to reacquire your attention. Those love bugs deserve a little limelight!
5. Cure to Lonliness
I am an introvert. Not a little bit. Like, a lotta bit. I score very high on that spectrum. That means I need and enjoy quite a bit of alone time to recharge my batteries. You know those things that pop up every now and then asking if you could live alone for a month without human interaction, receiving a kabillion dollars in compensation at the end? No peopling for a month!? Sign me up! No problem. Give me a few books, Netflix and food- I’m good.
I was wrong. I was so very wrong. I miss people.
Although I frequently and voluntarily isolated myself in short bursts as needed, before this all went down, now I feel the vacancy normally occupied by human interaction. This is a new and unpleasant sensation for me. I almost loath to admit it, but I need people. This isn’t news to Extroverts, I’m sure. I can’t imagine the strain of need they must be suffering at this time.
So it’s no surprise, that every time I hop onto a Zoom meeting, I feel a little bit of that normal social anxiety, but it’s almost immediately obliterated by the relief of human connection. I don’t even care what we’re talking about. How to unclog a toilet? Fine! Just be with me. I miss you so much!
There is something to be said for physical proximity. Something major, I now realize. But in it’s absence, I am incredibly grateful to be living in a time of technology. A time where we need not be completely cut off from one another. Zoom has allowed us to maintain our communities, and to do it without pants. And for that, I am eternally grateful.