After going through the experience of losing my job and quarantining during the current pandemic, my social life boiled down to meeting people on Zoom and Skype. This is how I feel about it now.
There are two things I think it's worth you knowing before reading this. The first thing is that I didn't lose my job because of the pandemic, but the timing was almost perfect. Second, because I'm writing about communication and connecting with people, you might think I'm a talkative person that loves to jabber all day long. But that's not the case at all. I'm more an introvert that believes that listening is more important than talking. Yet that doesn't make me feel like connecting less with people. Actually, it makes me want to connect more with people, both to help and learn from them.
Part I: The Splendor
I can't imagine a world without video calls. I mean, you can't truly understand someone without the visual cues, the revealing eye-contact, and the irreplaceable body language. What would you do with all the precious interpretations you learned from Weil & Tompakow's 1970's classic body language psychology book "Votre Corps Parle"? How would you live without interacting with so many people around the world that are so special and unique, teaching you so much about life - the real one, not the one you see on Instagram. And how about family and friends that are a million miles away.
I felt so lucky. So happy to be talking to people that meant so much to me. People that were shaping me to be a better version of myself. Opening my eyes to what was happening to their lives so far away from me, showing me different points-of-view, and at the same time, the same emotions and desires that I felt. So many different cultural backgrounds, so much diversity creating an ode to mutual respect. Also, after my social life vanished, It was comforting to still talk to someone outside of my house. It also felt effortless as ordering a pizza on an app on a wet Wednesday evening.
Part II: The Space Station
I can't imagine a world with video calls. I mean, how can you not be there 100% for someone, shifting from one app to another and skimming through your Instagram feed while video chatting? How can you not give someone a hug when words just won't do. How can you fully perceive temperature, humidity, light, smells, and the bright colors if you're not there? Is it welcoming and cozy? Is there light or darkness? What is the decor telling you about this person you're talking to right now? Can you feel the perfume of gramma's yummy cake or the aroma of mama's fresh-maid cookies?
I felt so lonely. I felt like a was an astronaut living alone on Mars. There is something that happens to people when they're on camera that makes them act differently. It's like when your mother just wants to tell you the good news because they think you're too far away to help them. Or maybe you are. Video chatting is definitely better than text chatting. But there's something still missing. Video communication with people is like watching a symphony orchestra performance of a classical masterpiece on your TV. It just doesn't matter how good your setup is, it will never be a better experience than the live one. Out there, at a sold-out theatre concert.
Final Part: Maybe it's Time to Go Home
Video chatting with people lies somewhere between talking to a human and talking to a computer. I really don't see how you can get the same experience from an in-person meeting simply because the subject - the human being you're talking to - is just not there with you. You can't feel them. You can't scent their perfume.
And it taught me two things.
First, humans, their stories, and their lives are incredibly precious. It doesn't matter where you're from, what you went through, or what do you do for a living. You're meant to be incredible, and the fact that you're alive is a blessing, an opportunity to help and - why not - to be supported by others.
Secondly, if you have the chance to meet someone in person, go ahead and do it. There is nothing like feeling the gentle breeze and bathing yourself in the aroma while chatting with someone in a street cafe. If you don't, keep up with the video calls, and please, start planning to pay this human being some coffee as soon as possible.