The last couple of years has left us all a little shell-shocked. But we're slowly getting back to being in the office, going to school, and taking public transportation. I don't wear a mask to go into a store, but I'll put one on when riding the subway. (If anything else, I don't have to breathe in the pungent smell surrounding the train and the platform. Crazy how it doesn't remind me of a field of flowers.) I'm noticing an aspect of our gatherings now is how reluctant we are to fully engage with each other. We've somehow lost the ability to make eye contact and smile when we get together. I'm finding more companies want my presentations to revolve around getting employees to connect again. Misunderstandings happen because of miscommunication.
Let's face it, Zoom was an excellent tool not only for businesses to keep running but it helped us to be with friends and family. It was also frustrating, annoying, and for the love of god, Sheila, unmute yourself. I recognize the convenience of not traveling and getting work done at home, but we've lost the energy that comes with being with each other. It's hard to brainstorm and throw out ideas when only one person at a time can speak using an online platform. We may have an epiphany we want to share with the group, but the moment is often lost because of screens freezing up, someone else has taken the floor, or time has run out.
Most people will not pick up the phone anymore. Instead, we're relying on email and texting. Unfortunately, we can't gauge tone, sarcasm, or brilliant wit in messages because they lack the human voice. I also don't have the patience to wait for those tiny bubbles to result in meaningful words. Depending on our mood, we can easily misinterpret another person's intent. For example, I texted my colleague what I think is a hilarious comment on a current event, only to find he was upset with me. Reading his irate response, I do the unthinkable and call him on the phone. When I explained my joke (which, by the way, if you have to explain the joke, it's not funny anymore), he told me he was having a terrible day and was not going to find any humor in anything. I was glad I cleared the air and took some time to listen to his concerns. It would be a shame to let a good relationship deteriorate because of a simple misinterpretation.
I recognize how technology is growing exponentially and how different our lives will be in the near future. But I'm hoping our humanity will win out and we don't get more isolated from each other. We need to be with each other in person to share our perspectives, ideas, and goals. There's less room for misunderstanding and hurt feelings when we're face to face, and I'm not talking about a computer screen. Sheila, please, we're begging you, we can't see you; turn on your camera.