I’m thinking about how we are having some of the most important conversations of our lives via a digital platform most of us had never used before March 15th.
I feel like the way we have been coming together might be changing the decisions we are making.
I have been grateful for the technology that has allowed us (and still allows us) to be safe and still speak to each other. It’s functional, surprisingly versatile and, in some cases, intuitive. I have personally used it to teach some classes, and was relieved that I could actually accomplish more than I imagined. Being able to talk (and see) loved ones far away in the middle of a pandemic is impossible to argue with. It’s now an essential tool for public health.
But, at a time when we are stressed (some with a much heavier load than others) and coping with decisions that in many cases we did not anticipate, I’m feeling that Zoom and other platforms are influencing how we are relating to each other in detrimental ways.
Well, I can only speak to my own experience. But when I ask:
“Have I ever made a decision quickly just to end a meeting and be able to stop staring at my screen?”
I am ashamed to say, I think I have.
I think I have attended over 100 meetings in the last 4 months. When I think about what has transpired in them, I am overwhelmed. But as these meetings accumulate, I’m aware that I am missing many of the physical cues that help me to fully understand the people I am listening to. A 2-dimensional portrait of a person on a mic is a partial image, and one that sometimes fails us.
And, most importantly right now, trust. How are we approaching issues of trust online?
I feel like trust is being tested everywhere right now. In some cases, we are trying to build trust where it hasn’t existed before. And I feel like this is where these platforms are not up to the task. I can’t read a Zoom room. If I have a pre-pandemic relationship with someone I can bring that to the experience, and so can the person I am talking to. But how do we assemble coalitions of people with trust at the core of everything when we really can’t look at each other in the eye?
Here’s where this piece gets disappointing. I don’t have the answer to this problem. I’m interested if you think you do. But I think acknowledging the problem every time we make an important decision about our lives and the lives of others in front of a computer screen is essential. Every single time.