The Human Side of Life Online

Staying Connected in the Digital Realm

In times of crisis, Mr. Rogers told generations of children to “look for the helpers.”

These days, amid a pandemic and its associated devastation, it’s easy to spot some of the helpers, including health care workers, grocery store clerks and delivery drivers.

There have also been digital helpers – those platforms that keep us connected to school, work, friends, family and our community. Through them, we’re discovering different ways to communicate and keep in touch, from virtual dinner parties and game nights to board meetings and community outreach.

It doesn’t matter what platform you use to stay connected; there are more than enough for all of us. What’s important is how they can be used to battle loneliness, social isolation, even unemployment. Know and love FaceTime? Great! Think Zoom works best? Perfect! Spending your days connecting through WhatsApp? Excellent!

For Xpaners, it’s all about finding beauty in the digital realm. Marveling at the connectivity of the world and how staying in touch and keeping a workforce or family connected is one of the most helpful things we can do right now. Our very human need to connect has been emphasized in how quickly we as a society have adapted to the digital world.

Psychological Safety

Amid the uncertainty and anxiety, we’re all trying to find islands of relief and bright spots of psychological safety. If done well, our virtual connections can provide some of those bright spots.

A recent New York Times article, “The Coronavirus Crisis Is Showing Us How to Live Online, speaks to how “we’ve always hoped that our digital tools would create connections, not conflict.” Now we have a chance to make it happen.

By keeping the use of technology human-focused, we can use this opportunity to overcome the automation and flow of digital media to connect to knowledge and to each other. The sharing of knowledge brings us even closer together, increasing awareness and empathy and lowering ignorance across a society that can benefit from stronger ties.

Settling into Our Digital World

While we’re sure to see the negative consequences of the pandemic play out over the next several months or years, there is an upside. It has forced us to slow down and use technology for what it was originally intended — to connect with one another. 

We are seeing healthy digital adoption play out every day among our clients who are working double-time to keep their employees and learners connected in an uncertain world. Workers on the frontlines of this pandemic need access to relevant knowledge to safely do their jobs, while workers in isolation need the systems and tools to productively do theirs. 

What is heartening is the replacement of society’s perception of structured professionalism with the vulnerability and realism of people’s actual daily lives. Kids sitting on our laps during a business video conference, thanking that grocery clerk for being on the front lines, or the window decorations warmly acknowledging those that put others’ well-being above their own. This behaviour has quickly taken over the globe with technology as the conduit. 

This awareness and acceptance have a chance of sticking with humanity beyond this short-term pandemic. It is our opportunity to shift society to one of greater empathy and compassion. Although data and general history indicate that life will return to exactly as before, this crisis has become a catalyst for increased adoption of digital connections. Human-focused technology and the increased transfer of knowledge will be key ingredients to a better future. 

In the meantime, stay connected and always be kind.

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