Communication: How the Pandemic Changed the Way We Do It
The ongoing challenges of the global pandemic.
Relationships 29th Dec, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic introduced many people to new ways of communication particularly when numerous countries went into lockdown. As family and friends were encouraged not to meet in person, a substantial proportion of the global population turned to social media and meetings platforms. While not the same as meeting in person, these platforms do at least allow you to see who you are talking to. Companies also used these platforms for meetings and conferences, allowing people to work from home.
This has had both positive and negative effects on our lives. Once lockdown lifted many people continued to use this technology. Perhaps you are now in contact with friends or family who live abroad, or some distance away, that you rarely spoke to prior to the pandemic. This can be good for our mental health as we reconnect with the people who mean the most to us. Some members of the older generation are more connected than ever before. If you would like to spend more time with elderly relatives or friends, perhaps you could consider trying this format.
As demonstrated during the pandemic, people who were convinced they couldn’t learn how to use this technology now handle the online element with ease. While you may have comic moments of people speaking on mute, frustrating times when everyone freezes, or the connection cuts off, you can always come back to the chat later. In addition, the ability to record and send a video message for a birthday/anniversary when you can’t see the person any other way can really mean a lot.
Alternatively, it has become more difficult to avoid people, or a quiz/party style online meeting that you feel you do not have the time or energy for. The pressure to produce more creative entertainment at these meetings, or record a different birthday/anniversary message for everyone you know can be overwhelming. If you have a difficult relationship with parents/siblings/children it is important to continue managing that relationship. Remember that you have a right to say no, without giving a reason more substantial than you are not available.
If asked why, state personal reasons. If you are saying no to a recorded message celebrating something, explain you are sending a card, or writing a message on social media. Just because the technology is available, does not mean we have to use it all the time. While these may be people you love, or at least want a basic relationship with, you are not obligated to be available whenever they ask. Just as you find ways to compromise on the amount of time spent in person, you need to do the same online.
More people than ever before now also work, at least part of the time, from home. This has allowed many greater flexibility, particularly parents who may previously have taken a career break due to the high costs of childcare. There is a danger that you may feel permanently on call as the majority of us can access emails and other forms of communication 24/7. It is important to stick to working hours, unless there is a genuine emergency, or need to respond sooner. This can be a delicate balance but is achievable, remember you are not obliged to do unpaid overtime and most people do not do so.
The online world of social media platforms and video messaging has advantages and disadvantages like everything else. You can learn to negotiate them. For example, block out weekly, monthly, or quarterly time and explain that is your availability around a busy life. You are not refusing to be in contact, just doing so around your schedule. When you use polite, but firm language such as ‘these are the only dates I can do, looking forward to seeing you’, compromise is more likely to be reached. Treat the online world like the physical one, try not to expect too much of yourself and you’ll find you can avoid the pitfalls of this type of communication and enjoy the benefits.