Joel Meekison sings the praises of technology, but argues that we shouldn't lose sight of flesh and blood
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives in just a few short weeks. Once busy shopping streets now lay empty. Supermarkets have a slightly anxious tone about them. Now runners and pedestrians gamble for the most socially distant routes along the pavements.
And of course, the star itself, video conferencing calls. Worldwide there is a 90% increase on this time last year for video conferencing app downloads. Now getting to see faces is a short pleasure amidst the chaos.
Platforms like Zoom, Facetime, and WhatsApp are now taking the weight of huge functions of society. Having Skyped my optician and friends alike, neither seemed shocked by our new way of communicating. This is the crux of my point, pre-pandemic we had something better, human social interaction. The challenge is not to forget that.
Video calls are handy. Quicker and cheaper for travel. In-person was becoming less cool anyway over the past few years this may well be the last straw.
Pre-pandemic we had something better - human social interactionJoel Meekison
For those now working from home, it’s almost shameful to say you’d turn down bed for going into the office. Are they mad? In Scotland around 30% live alone, so those missing their colleges aren’t loners because they don’t have ‘a life’. They are actually human because within their office’s four walls they built one. And remembering that social interaction is irreplaceable would benefit other aspects too.
Such as mental health, which is now rightly part of the national response. Interestingly, many of the techniques advised for coping during lockdown are the same as those advised pre-social distancing, despite fundamental changes in our society.
One recommendation is mindfulness or meditation. Meditating gives you time for yourself. Gives you space to think, relax, and understand your feelings. While relieving, its benefits are stinted. It presents an outcome where the only person clearer on solving your problems is you.
Many problems can’t be solved by looking within, for those you need to seek people for support and understanding. These are the same limitations we see for socially isolated technological solutions. They cannot bring us together.
It may seem a strange time to be pointing out the inadequacy of our only solution. But, with our memory of pre-lockdown still fresh and full extend of an exit strategy timeline becoming clear, the timing is perfect. This clarity for the reward of social distancing being relaxed provides much-needed focus. Especially, when my entire future seems to revolve around yet more digital technology. It clarifies the worth and necessity of people talking to people. The challenge is not remembering this worth until next week or even next month.
The challenge is going to be remembering after a year of social distancing. With even then our newly embraced digital infrastructure set to stay for years longer.
In the end, all we can do is try, we are only human. It is that ingenuity, that humanity, that collaboration which is going to see us through this crisis so let’s not lose it along the way.
Joel Meekison is an ambassador for the #iwill campaign coordinated in Scotland by YouthLink Scotland.