I saw some of my friends this weekend and noticed that I don’t enjoy socializing in person now. I don’t think I’m alone in this. It’s not only that there are constant reminders of what we cannot do, but also concerns about how my behavior might be affecting others, like, “If I took my mask off to drink this tea, would anyone be upset?” At some point, these limitations and concerns become so jarring that they cancel whatever benefit socializing in person may have.
Here is the best analogy I can think of. Let’s say you are invited to a dance party, but you are told you have to wear a cast on one leg and that there will be a row of judges scoring your performance. Given those conditions, you might choose to do something else. That’s how I feel about socializing in person now. As much as I enjoy seeing my friends, given the current conditions, I’d rather see them on Zoom or even Facebook.
The type of conversation I like to have is usually hard to achieve in person anyway. It requires the right environment, like a certain level of privacy and comfort, with low noise and distractions, almost like a therapist’s office. Ironically, in most cases, chatting online is better.
There used to be a TV commercial that illustrated how it’s easier to apologize over the phone than in person. To bring down the defense mechanisms we unconsciously employ, it’s often better to reduce the amount of sensory data in our communication, especially the ones that are not relevant to the topic.
From this point of view, in-person communication is often overrated. It’s not always the best medium for what you want to achieve. Yes, in-person is just one of many different mediums of communication, and it’s the one with the greatest amount of sensory data, but the more is not always better for communication.
During the current pandemic, we are forced to use different mediums to communicate with our friends, and I think it’s allowing us to connect to different aspects of each other, the aspects that we may not have seen or shown to our friends. Limitations can open the door to a new world within someone.
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