The closure of schools, workplaces and activities across the world has left us feeling detached. With millions of Americans self-quarantining for the foreseeable future, FaceTime, YouTube, Google Hangouts and Zoom have become, seemingly overnight, the gateway to today’s real life. 

We can’t see anyone in person, but we can see everyone online instantly—at college lectures and in elementary-school P.E. classes, at cardio-kickboxing training and yoga classes, and on happy hours and kindergarten playdates.  

While we’re being told to socially distance, what that really means is to physically distance ourselves. It also means finding new ways to stay social. 

New virtual social activities
Zoom and Google Hangouts are where we now work, go to school, exercise and even date.

Nightlife has gone online too.

When you do anything online with someone for the first time, it creates a connection. Online living has become our new social life. People are having parties on zoom and loving it: “It was honestly better than a real party, because people could duck out whenever and there was no getting cornered at the door by someone’s family member you don’t know. And no clean up!”  

Sharing skills and talents with others online 

Groups have created the most beautiful musical collages on YouTube from their living rooms and shared it with all of us. Rotterdam’s Philharmonic Orchestra was among the first in Europe to exploit the wonders of smartphones and video editing while featuring the musicians locked down in their homes. Each orchestra member introduced themselves before playing the Ode to Joy theme from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

Thirty-one of Nashville’s studio singers came together using their cell phones during Nashville’s ‘Safer at Home’ order to record and lift their collective voices to share a message of hope and encouragement with “It Is Well With My Soul.”

These musicians, who have no place to play, are giving in ways they can—creating music that gives us moments of happiness. Maybe it does the same for them: “normalizing” daily life by giving them back a chance to do what they’re trained to do. 

Zoom and Google are offering us new ways

Zoom usage ballooned overnight. In addition, 90,000 schools across 20 countries have signed on now that Zoom is offering unlimited meeting minutes to teachers. To put this growth in context, as of December the maximum number of daily meeting participants was approximately 10 million, In March, it was 200 million daily meeting participants (and still growing). 

Google Classrooms’ users have doubled to over 100 million and Google Meet, a video conferencing app, has seen 25x more users in March than it did just in January. And this online life is being used by people of all ages—from 2 years old to over 100 years old.  

Some bumpy and awkward moments

The haste with which we’ve had to adjust to the new reality makes it inevitable that Zoom, like life itself, has captured our adjustments. Being confined to our homes (often with roommates or family members or pets), with no clear separation between work and leisure, is a unique experience for most of us. In-person meetings are now videoconference calls and the conference rooms are our living rooms or bedrooms or, occasionally, bathtubs. 

My favorite part of this new reality is seeing everyone’s personal spaces during video meetings. I sometimes feel more connected to them because it’s more real – no haircuts, little or no makeup, less dressing up, and natural backgrounds—they are all reflections of who they really are and what their life is like. 

In a time of social distancing, our background noises, bathrobes, and other bloopers can be unexpected sources of connection.

HighLight of the Week: Online Etiquette

The glimpses we get into everyone’s personal spaces and behaviors can be too much. 

“Our families are more important than anyone, but that doesn’t mean our colleagues want to see our partners in their bathrobes, our cats sitting on keyboards, or our children throwing toys,” says Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughter, who weighed in on inappropriate online behavior. Drinking coffee or tea during a meeting is fine, but, she warned, “avoid slurping.” She, too, vetoed bathrobes. 

On NPR’s “All Things Considered,” the USA Today columnist Steven Petrow said, bluntly, “If you need to go to the bathroom . . . turn off the video and audio, because the sound is louder than you think.”

We may find these Work-from-Home Fails from the Ellen Show funny—and I hope they made you laugh—but they’re also  examples of things we definitely don’t want to get caught doing!

Challenge of the Week

Phone calls have made a comeback in the pandemic. The volume of calls has surged more than internet use. We want to hear each other’s voices.  

While the nation’s biggest telecommunications providers prepared for a huge shift toward more internet use from home, what they didn’t expect was an even greater surge in plain old voice calls, something that had been going out of fashion for years.

Verizon said it is now handling an average of 800 million wireless calls a day during the week—more than double the number made on Mother’s Day, which is historically one of the busiest call days of the year. According to Verizon, the length of voice calls is up 33 percent from an average day before the outbreak too. In contrast, internet traffic is up around 20 to 25 percent from what used to be the typical daily pattern.

 Let someone hear your voiceIt’s much more personal and meaningful than texting!

We know how important it is to stay connected. 

We all know someone who in normal times could use some love and attention, and now, even more so.  

Most of us have cabin fever. And what about friends or family members who have empty cabins? 

Who will you call this week? 

Reach out, connect with others, and stay social. Use the best of what technology lets us do to make another person’s day better. And your own! 

Share with us your favorite ways to stay connected. Send us your stories, videos and photos. Whether big or small, we’d love to hear and feature them here.

Kendall Webb
Executive Director,

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