Beyond the challenges of running a business, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced me to “deal” differently. My usual outlets for managing stress, doubt, and darkness are no longer safely accessible to me: the yoga classes are limited, the once bustling office is dark, vacations have been put on hold.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m healthy, have a comfortable and safe place to live, and nutritious food to eat. Even with these privileges, I’m struggling with the forced change.
One of the areas I feel this most is in how I find connection with others. Where face-to-face interactions and body language used to play a central role in conversation, now I must rely on virtual cues and interactions to an unnerving degree. Unnerving because, as study after study have shown, the virtual facade that we present online is rarely authentic to who we are.
How then do I create meaningful connections with friends, colleagues, clients, and loved ones on platforms that aren’t traditionally conducive to authenticity?
BREAKING DOWN THE FASCADE
Prior to the murder of George Floyd and the rise of Black Lives Matter marches across the world, the perfectly curated world of social media made it easy to think that we had become the “happiness machines” that President Hoover imagined us to be.
Through filters and lenses, we watched a pretense of others as mostly content, confident, cared for, innovative, and fulfilled.
Particularly when we’ve been isolated from in-person interactions, these personas take on greater weight. An endless stream of inspiring make-shift home offices, energetic workout challenges, not to mention the home baked breads, suggested that we alone must be struggling. As we discussed in the first dispatch in our series, this perception creates an ideal environment for self-doubt.
It’s a pretense that’s been shattered time and time again, most recently by the Stop Profit for Hate campaign that highlights how some of our mainstay social platforms (ahem Facebook and Instagram) are choosing to allow hate speech that is inciting violence in our communities. While these reminders are hard, they are essential to staying grounded in our shared reality.
We are all human, all flawed, and all doing the best we can.
BOUNDARIES. BOUNDARIES. BOUNDARIES.
I know, it’s only a phone but it’s become an appendage and can be toxic if not shown some boundaries. I’ve renegotiated these boundaries over time and since the stay at home order, I’ve had to redefine them again.
There’s no right way, but here are a few things that have helped me use technology for good:
Out of the bed and beyond arm’s reach.
My phone is not my significant other and therefore should no longer come to bed with me. I’m working toward leaving it completely OUT of my bedroom at night, but for now, it’s on the far side of the nightstand (progress).
My phone is not a small child.
I used to check texts, emails and Instagram (in that order) before anything else. Around 5:45 am when my brain wasn’t fully-functioning yet, I’d give this device my attention as if it needed me. No longer.
I turn off notifications on Sundays and intentionally leave my phone in another room and out of sight for most of the day. It’s a good break.
Out of all the social applications, Instagram is my kryptonite. Beyond trying to limit my time, I keep my account private and my circle small. My posts are few but my stories are rather active and I use them to keep myself accountable for eating healthy, moving my body and most recently hydration. #drinkwater
I try to leave a few positive comments each day. Because my IG community is small and made up of mostly people I know IRL, this isn’t a huge challenge, it keeps me connected and more importantly forces me to seek out positive content.
Reality Should Not Be Self-Destructive.
Seeing the truth visually can be brutal. I follow and connect with accounts that reveal and remind me of hard truths and community suffering so that I can stay grounded in reality. Yet over exposure to harmful, violent, and painful content takes its toll. I image it is taking a toll on an entire generation as we speak. You are allowed to take breaks and care for yourself.
Beyond this, remember that content is not solidarity. Bearing witness to the truths of this moment is important, but that alone does not create the necessary change to prevent future injustices from recurring.
If social media is your primary mechanism for being anti-racist: press pause. Reassess the opportunities for tangible involvement in your community, many of which currently cater to remote virtual participation to keep you, and others, safe.
Enter Zoom., Miro, and a bounty of other virtual spaces.
I had never used Zoom until this stay at home order, and now it’s become an essential app. Zoom Yoga from my living room isn’t ideal, but seeing the faces of my yoga community is refreshing, lovely, and reminds me how much I miss people. Thank goodness for technology that enables me to show up and show myself, or not.
We’ll be back next week to explore some of the most real-world-authenticity-enabling virtual collaboration tools on the market.