Connections have been vital this year. Outside in-person, on Facetime, Zoom, or other platforms, or through Facebook and LinkedIn – any opportunity to connect mattered as the pandemic limited everything else.
But here is a conundrum about connections. Facebook suggested I “invite as a friend” a woman who shares almost one hundred Facebook friends with me, and I did not recognize her face or name.
Other suggestions do not surprise me, such as the four connections I have with the brother of my nephew’s wife. Twenty-two connections with a Madison woman who belongs to a woman’s networking group of which I was a part. That makes sense. Three with the wife of a close college friend who lives on another coast and five with a young woman whose last name is the same as my ex-husband’s cousins. Twenty-five with my mortgage broker for a sale about 40 years ago. That’s one connected mortgage banker!
But close to one hundred shared Facebook friends? And I didn’t know the woman? Was I oblivious to her when I lived in Madison? Or she to me? My Facebook (and LinkedIn) connections come from many places. Clearly, that woman and I have a lot in common. How could I not even recognize who she is? Perhaps she is another Jay Loewi, a life (and Facebook) friend who knows everyone in Madison. Clearly, she’s proof that we are all less than six-degrees-of-freedom related in Madison, WI.
I don’t have an answer to how this woman, and I, share so many overlapping webs. But it got me thinking though about how the nature of human connections is evolving during the pandemic. My daughter was hired by a newly formed company that has only worked virtually. Lauren loves the people and the culture, as well as the purpose of the organization. I hear a lot of laughter throughout the day from the guest room, where she is spending the holidays. In-person apparently is not a requirement for creating culture.
I have not physically hugged my 7-month-old grandson Cameron in Baltimore yet. But I feel I know him well thanks to Facetime calls. And I’ve watched his sister thrive over this year. The calls brought such joy to Nick and me.
More generally, I’ve been reflecting on all the ways that the pandemic has changed our connections. We all know the great, permanent harm it has caused, the 320+ thousand (and counting) lost lives chief in that category. At the same time, I find myself looking at the good things it caused and will catalyze in the future.
- The doctor-patient relationship has been strengthened through Telehealth and digital monitoring to make people healthier and keep them out of hospitals.
- Transitioning to work-from-home for (now all) and soon (some) of the week frees people up from commuting to spend more time with family.
- Audiences for the arts have been expanded through digital events.
- Organizations realized they can dramatically reduce the time to accomplish something – GM’s electric cars, doctors’ adoption of Telehealth are two examples. Necessity is the mother of invention, and teamwork during such successes strengthens.
- An appreciation that relationships are at the heart of a joyous life, not the stuff we buy. I knew that. My daughter discovered that.
- Finally, “getting” that essential workers are, in fact, essential.
- The knowledge that teaching K-12 takes patience and talent worthy of greater appreciation.
- Public health workers are invaluable, as are scientists, and we need more, not less, investment in them.
What’s on your list of how relationships have changed as a result of the pandemic?
A therapist who helped me in my transition moving from Wisconsin to California once told me, “Enough with the gratitude, Kay. You have more than enough. Let’s work on joy.” But this is a year in which gratitude cast a light on the joy. Running brought me closer to nature. Reading and great TV movie-like series helped me escape. And connections to others made life happy.
As the year turns, I thank you for the connection. And I hope to find out more about the woman with whom I share so many digital friends. Her name has disappeared from the current list of potential Facebook friends. No wonder Facebook took the offer away – how did I not press the “invite” button?