April 17, 2020
I have written several times over the last weeks how amazed I am by the new technology (at least to me!) we now use as common place to keep in touch. We get together via Zoom or Skype to conduct our face-to-face meetings. We gather to worship on-line in Zoom, Facebook and YouTube. We hold studies, book clubs and small group socials on-line. I have even heard of several conferences and teen weekends that are being held in a virtual format, including chat rooms and breakout groups within the same call.
I’ve also found the distancing we have undergone is resulting in an increased desire for contact. I’ve found myself reaching out to my family through several different formats. I’ve been part of a “cousins” group on Facebook and a “siblings’” group on Instagram for the last several years, but neither was greatly used until the last several months. Now they are both in regular use. Our siblings’ group has had several running dialogues lasting for longer periods of time, and with most of the families involved. Even when I don’t comment I scroll through the comments by others and laugh. It makes me wonder if our virtual connections are the new normal when we come out of the immediate crisis.
That’s when reality sets in. As amazing as this is, even in America it’s not available for everyone. There are still areas where internet access is either unavailable, unreliable, or band width is so weak it’s frustrating to try and use the technology. I recall my first attempts at on-line streaming living in the Bay Area of San Francisco. This was the birthplace of the internet, but my 300 baud modem meant it took 30 minutes to receive only a few minutes of content. Even where access is available there are those unable to connect. Someone needs to host the on-line formats and we need computers or smart phones for viewing. These are high ticket items not everyone has or can afford, even if they know how to use them. Staying in touch is too critical to leave a large portion of the population behind. I think I’ll make a phone call.
THOUGHTS: It is increasingly clear moving forward needs to happen in a both/and fashion. I am hopeful our technology formats will continue to keep us connected and even increase in the future. Rather than putting all our efforts into new tech, we also need to remember those unwilling or unable to join the revolution. A century ago, the Old School formats were the budding technology that brought our nation closer together. Automobiles, mail, phone calls (and eventually visits), are still needed to embrace those isolated by distance. These are not as convenient as sending a text, but they can be just as effective and for many just as needed. If it is possible, Stay home. Stay safe.