As we begin to emerge from the depths of “social distancing” and “social bubbles,” it has become clear that we need to reconnect with the ordinary rules of social engagement. The basic rules of decorum and human interaction; the elementary manners for social interaction that most of us have been raised to use as a part of ordinary human behavior allowing us to be with other human beings. Perhaps we all need a refresher course in “how to be live and in person” with one another. Good old fashion home training in the basics of “please” and “thank-you” seem to be missing from our most ordinary interactions. People do not greet each other with a “good morning” or “hello” or “excuse me” as they cross paths with other individuals in public spaces.
Acknowledging one another’s humanity is a part of recognizing our own and yet we seem to have forgotten how to do this after over two years of being hunkered down in our individual homes and dwelling places using ZOOM and other social media platforms to engage in social interaction from a “virtual space.” Have we forgotten how to have actual conversations with one another? Has living and speaking from the video screen and from behind the multiple styles, colors and models of masks that have been protecting us from spreading a deadly virus caused damage to our physical, emotional, and psychological psyche as a society? We are coming out into the spring season in much the same way as animals emerge from a long hibernation. We are rusty. We are distant and often inappropriate with one another and perhaps we need to recognize that we have been damaged and acknowledge that it will take some work and intentionality to recalibrate our public interactions with one another.
Social media has been a valuable resource for many of us. It has helped to maintain jobs and even created employment opportunities. Our schools and academic institutions would not have survived if it had not been for the “virtual classroom.” People have been able to reconnect with people they had lost contact with for years through social media. Families have been able to see children and grandchildren maintaining a connection with them through social media over the past two years. Businesses have learned how much can be done through alternative work schedules accommodating their workforce instead of forcing people to work and maintain an outdated arbitrary schedule that has not been revised or innovated to accommodate a modern-day workforce for generations.
Throughout the past two years of living and working within the confines of a global pandemic, we have all adjusted to the inevitability of this “new age” of social media and it has in many ways been a “both/and” proposition. It has been both good and bad. The paradox is that although it has in many ways allowed us to be connected to our friends and family and facilitated our ability to stay employed and have our schools open while keeping many businesses functioning at a level that has allowed them to survive the economic downturn of the past two years, it has also caused a lot of harm, disconnection, and dysfunction. Social media cannot be a substitute for actual social contact or interaction. There’s nothing like real human connection and interaction.
We are very rusty at being together in living color with other people outside of our friends, family, and those within our social bubble. Let’s acknowledge that fact and recognize that we may need to do some re-learning or at least a review of the basic rules and protocols involved in our social interactions. We will have to be patient with one another and have some “grace” with each other as we all navigate this spring awakening. Coming out and relearning how to be socially engaged with one another will take time. We all may not be fully ready to engage, because LIVE and in person takes a lot more work and sensitivity than online or the “comment section” of the chat does. “Come on out and engage…get off social media and be social!”