Humans, as a whole are social beings. Without people making personal connections, there’d be no reproduction of more humans. Without hunting tribes working together, tackling on larger mammals, food source would have been scarcer and survival more difficult.
We create groups to make recreational activities more pleasurable. Having another person to share time with helps us to pause and step away from everyday challenges and stressors.
We clearly need social interaction. But I don’t think we understood just how much we’d rely on social connection until mobile phones were introduced to us. Only then, did we realize that we could connect with anyone, anytime, from anywhere. We could literally go for a walk in the park and still be available for a call or text by whomever wanted to speak with us.
And when mobile phones became connected to the internet, wow, we could also do video calls and connect while seeing each other on a screen! We could send photos, videos, and music, play video games together, and keep others informed of our every movement on social media, even while on vacation!
Mobile devices have changed the way we stay connected, and this recent COVID-19 pandemic has added an expanded lens to our need to socialize. The internet is now saturated with Zoom calls for both business and pleasure. We’ve learned to use Apps like, Among Us, to chat and play online. Online Video gaming has increased by 75% since the beginning of the pandemic. Many children are only interacting with their teacher and friends through a screen. And we are checking in with each other more regularly, with texting, to combat the loneliness of isolation.
Personally, I have spent far more time on a digital device, combatting the isolation of COVID. I have become far more adept at connecting with friends and business network groups via video calls. I’ve also used texting to check in with friends and sending a cheery note, especially for those who are living alone and/or are struggling. I’ve adapted, but I still miss seeing family and friends in person. And I miss hugs.
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that physical contact is probably the thing we value most.
So, what will our social connections look like, post pandemic? Will we put down our digital devices for good and only see people in person, as we’ve longed to this past year? Unlikely. But we may temporarily put down our devices to make more time for physical connection at first. And for families, this will be a great time to start creating new boundaries around tech time.
Many parents, who have been working from home and have had to adapt their children to home schooling, have allowed much more screen time, just to survive. Despite my work as a parent coach with video gaming and screen addiction, I have no judgment; they’re doing whatever they can to survive being locked up in a busy and often chaotic house for months. But as the virus spread is decreased and a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, it might be a good time to start planning for how screen time could be managed in the foreseeable future.
Have a family conversation and have children contribute to the conversation. They will be just as excited about seeing friends and extended family in person, but they will also have some anxiety about stepping away from their digital devices. Look for the areas that have slid over the pandemic like bedtime, diet, and exercise, not just screen habits. Brainstorm and come up with ideas to help get everyone back on track with a healthier schedule.
Diet: It’s easy to make easy, convenience meals from the freezer, but having children contribute to preparing food, setting the table, and cleaning up creates a space for social connection.
Conversation: With everyone on screens, meals may be taken in front of a computer, television, or gaming console during isolation. But sitting down together at the table for meals, without digital devices, allows time for meaningful face-to-face conversation.
Sleep: While schedules have become lighter due to less outside activity and connection, it may have been easy to let bedtime routines slide. Creating new schedules that include consistent bedtime, no digital devices an hour before sleep, and no phones in bedrooms, will make it easier to adjust to a more active lifestyle when that time arrives.
Exercise: If physical activity has been reduced as a result of more screen time, start looking for physical fitness groups and teams that can be joined when it’s safe to do so. Encourage children to find at least one physical fitness activity they are willing to participate in when thy can.
Screen Time: Decide, as a family what will be an acceptable amount of time for using screens and digital devices, post-COVID, create a schedule, and start talking about how each person will fill their time when they are offline. Get everyone excited about the idea that having the internet was a fantastic bonus during a time of isolation, but that being able to socialize in person again will be a way bigger benefit for relationships and mental health.
My hope is that the pandemic ends soon, and our lives will be filled with face-to-face contact, hugs will be given and received in abundance, and we can socialize freely once again.