Since the start of the pandemic, my text conversations have become just as much a form of social connection as going out to the bar for a drink, or going for coffee with friends — Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash.
In this day and age, it goes without saying that the majority of us rely on our technology for just about everything – navigation, knowledge acquisition, and perhaps most importantly, communication and connection. Particularly for the millennial generation and generation Z, the degree to which we rely on our devices to take us through daily life has been the subject of much scrutiny and criticism; most of us are quite familiar with being told we are “glued to our screens”, and our phones have been the punchline of many a comedian. But at a time of global pandemic, the smartphone in our hands has proven how valuable of a tool it is, more than ever before. In this post, we’ll have a look at how technology has redefined the idea of being social in the middle of a lockdown.
Raise your hand if you’ve been in a Google Hangout session with your friends since the lockdown started. We at The Shortcut sure have! On my social media timelines I’ve seen friends come up with the most creative ways to pass the time together, from organising silly hat contests to virtual pub quizzes. To be fair, though, none of this is all that new to me — as a nearly constant expat hopping from country to country for most of my adult life, social media and messaging apps have always been an important part of my day to day; with your friends scattered all around the globe, it’s almost impossible to stay in touch with anyone without them.
Now, however, it seems like we’re all in the same boat — with the world shut down, the device in our hand has turned into our window to the outside world. Far more than just a way to pass the time, calls and texts have become our visits to grandma, our afterwork parties, our hangouts. When this is all over, will we go back to condemning how much we rely on our phones, or will we come to terms with the fact that it has become an indispensable part of how we fulfill the basic human need for connection?
Of course, I am not making a case for us to indulge even more in our screens than we already do. I’m as much an advocate for digital downtime as the next person — you know, smell the flowers and all that. But be honest; while we are all staying home and isolating, where would we be if it weren’t for those familiar little pings coming from our phones every once in a while?
Whether by nature or nurture, humans are social animals. We crave companionship, acceptance, and belonging, and even distance has, historically, never truly deterred us from seeking contact with other people — from smoke signals to carrier pigeons, script, telegrams, and ultimately the telephone, our instinctive urge to communicate is innately responsible for many of the inventions that have shaped our world. In this sense, our messaging apps are nothing more than the natural progression of a desire for connection that humans have been chasing for millennia.
During this pandemic, our need to stay in touch with people sticks out like a sore thumb — and it has completely changed the way I view my phone use. Whereas before, I would mentally reprimand myself for checking my phone for notifications as often as I did, I have started to consider my conversations over text to be just as much a form of social connection as going out to the bar for a drink, or going for coffee with friends. When I’m wondering how so-and-so friend is doing, I don’t need to hesitate – no matter where in the world they are, I have the luxury of being able to reach out to them whenever I want.
Perhaps we should abandon the idea of a smartphone being foreign, an addiction to be quelled, and instead embrace the connectivity that our devices have given us as an extension of our social lives, and the ability to use these devices in function of our most basic needs.
Aren’t you glad we aren’t using carrier pigeons anymore?
By Charlotte Van Hulle – May 26th, 2020