Connecting in new ways

21 Nov 2020

Email

Months of social distancing, online classes, absence of outdoor group activities and no travelling have all affected in us different ways. And each of us has found ways to replace the physical interaction and connection we had with others before Covid-19 arrived, and are using other ways to stay connected with family and friends.

But no matter what we do now, there is no denying that the reduction in face-to-face interactions has had a rusty effect on our social skills. We are now just too uncomfortable being too close to others, and this is leading to us becoming emotionally disconnected with others too.

Our physical health is very important during this pandemic and so is our mental and emotional well-being. And emotions have direct effect on our physical health, which is why it is important to keep ourselves emotionally well and help others too in the same situation.

So we need to reach out to others, to share our feelings and give others a chance to do the same with us. But sharing of feelings are done in different ways, and depends on people’s own skills and how they are comfortable connecting with others. For instance, giving a smile to a friend when you see each other will immediately tell them that you are happy to see them and it will make them feel good. But this is not something you should be doing when you are answering a serious question during your online class, because it may make you seem non-serious.

The hard truth here is that nowadays we are having more online serious school sessions than we are having online chats with friends. And when we do meet our classmates and friends at school, the mask hides our smiles and expressions, thereby making emotional facial gestures more difficult to convey.

So let us see what and how we can continue to keep connected, build bridges and reach out during this time of social distancing.

Emotional vocabulary

Since texting or talking, whether virtually or in person, are the main ways we connect with others now, we need to be more conscious of the words we use. We should try to convey our message, thoughts and feelings in clear, correct and appropriate words because we do not have the advantage of a face-to-face communication where much can be expressed through our body language and facial expression.

So rather than simply stating something to a friend or family you are communicating remotely/virtually with, you must add a few words to indicate how you feel about it. Like when you are texting to a friend or talking on the phone with a cousin, rather than just writing/saying “How are you?”, you can add a few words to express that you are glad to talk to them and use a nice emoji in the text message.

Emojis are a lifesaver in this age of electronic communication and they have precisely been invented to express the feelings that typed words lack. Use these frequently and make your communication more impactful and expressive. Texting acronyms are also helpful in expressing feelings in the shortest of ways and you should make full use of it in your messages. But do be careful as many people are not well familiar with their meaning and they are more suitable for informal messages than formal ones.

Out of sight is out of mind

In many cases, we have been connecting with only those friends and families whom we have some sort of work with or those who live close by. This may lead to loss of ties with many people who are important in our lives. This physical distance can lead to emotional detachment too, which we need to avoid since this pandemic isn’t going away soon and we have to learn to live as much of a fulfilling life as we can.

So set up a schedule that includes some kind of communication everyday with at least a couple of people you are unable to meet. And if your parents are talking to a relative, you can ask your parent’s permission and say a few words to them too.

You should also make sure to communicate with your grandparents since they are having one of the hardest times these days because their social life has come to a standstill in an effort to avoid exposure to the virus. They will feel so happy to at least talk to you if you are not meeting too often, and the conversation will also lift your own mood since grandparents are so full of love.

Turn moments into memories

Many milestones, festivals and special occasions have passed this year that are lost in oblivion because those days and moments were like any other day of this year since March — spent at home, without guests and the hustle and bustle that mark a celebration.

And in the absence of a party or gathering, many of us didn’t even try to dress up or celebrate occasions such as Eid or birthdays. I can understand, why dress up when no one is going out or anyone visiting, why even get out of the bed?

I slept most of the day on Eidul Azha because I was upset we were not having any sacrificial animal at our home as we had outsourced that to a charity organisation and there was no family dinner like each year. But then that way I didn’t video chat with most of my family when my parents connected a call to them. Thus I deprived myself a chance to at least virtually spend a part of Eid with my best friend, who is also my cousin.

You see, if you can’t have family or friends over, you can share photographs with them of special moments and occasions. For instance, the dinner your mother cooked especially for you on your birthday, even if you have no friends clapping as you cut the cake mum baked, you can make sure there are photographs and videos to capture the moment. You can video chat with family on such occasions and do the same when someone else’s birthday arrives to show that you are with them virtually, though not physically.

Like they say, the play must go on, so, with covid-19, life too must go on. We just need to find ways to keep our lives meaningful, keep our connections strong and keep ourselves healthy and happy. This all requires some out of the box thinking and extra effort. What will work for you will depend on your circumstances and preferences. And initially the way you are doing things now may not seem so appealing or worthwhile, but if that is the only way to handle the current situation, why not make the best of it.

Published in Dawn, Young World, November 21st, 2020