Posted: Thu 24th Mar 2022
“Hang on, I’m just connecting the Zoom call. Oh no, I’ve just lost connection!”
How many times I have said that since March 2020 and how many hours I’ve spent on Zoom, connecting with people I’ve never met, and connecting in a way that I did not think possible.
Was it the fact that connecting with people is not necessarily about interacting with them in a physical situation, but maybe about the state of one’s mind and ability to move outside the box of our usual behaviour?
Previously, I’d phoned friends, texted, emailed, wrote letters or best of all, meet for coffee or travelled around the country to visit them.
I’m a great traveller so think nothing of driving 100 miles to see friends.
But when the UK woke up on 22 March 2020 and were told we were in lockdown, I blanched. What, I can’t go out, be free, see friends, continue my fashion and coaching business?
Now, in March 2022, we’ve all become familiar with using Zoom. It’s become like another breath in our lives - some of us have flourished because of this medium of connecting, some of us have been reborn, some have Zoom fatigue and for many of those single people, those far from family, it has been a blessing, a way to stay connected.
Connection. The essence of our human nature is to feel we are part of a bigger world than ourselves.
Ammar Kalla, writing for The Guardian on 21 May 2020 said: “The app reported a maximum of 10 million daily users. By March, 200 million people were on it each day to work, socialise, view lessons, sing in choirs […] say final words to dying family members and observe Ramadan and Easter.”
That was then, and now, the figures are staggering: “Today, the software registers over 3.3 trillion annual meeting minutes. And the market cap of the publicly-traded company exceeds $75 billion.”
I’m stating these figures because that is a whole load of connections around the globe and the speed and use of Zoom out-leagues any other social platform.
The importance of connection
Personally, from being a non-techy person to resenting spending hours at my computer screen, I developed a schizophrenic relationship with this platform.
I never enjoyed seeing myself on a video screen, having an estranged relationship to body image, but the one overriding joy for me was the way I was able to connect with strangers.
In my opinion, the Zoom platform is two-dimensional. Seeing rows and rows of people lined up in front of me, little boxes of humanity, was overwhelming, but two things were clear to me.
Firstly, I could be me when on a 1:1 Zoom call. I found that I could build rapport and connect with my clients in a way I did not when face-to-face.
Please don’t ask me how that was or is, it just became! I was able to look at them and see all of their hopes, desires and vulnerabilities shining through, and all I wanted was to be able to let them know they could rely upon me for the privacy and safety of their own personal space, of this technical aberration. It worked for me.
Between March 2020 and December 2021, I must have spent over 300 hours on Zoom calls, and that’s just 1:1. I’m sure there are those who have spent a lot more time.
Connecting on Zoom did not feel unnatural. I did get a square bottom though.
Maybe it was to do with the groups of people I connected with. We were all talking on the same page, many of us from a coaching background. It was a place where our focus is on the present, looking to the future and sharing our joys and hope for our future selves.
Today, many of my connections made on Zoom have become firm friends, and those from my past whom I did not connect with on Zoom (many just hated that platform), I made a pact with to stay connected, constantly reaching out to them. A few became silent, maybe they found this whole experience too much and needed to retreat.
Secondly, well yes, I did burn out a bit by January 2022.
I felt overwhelmed and needed to take a break. My eyesight worsened, my weight increased, although I tried so hard to avoid those sweety things.
The fatigue I felt was not from being on Zoom, but more the longing to get away from my office and constant working indoors. Hours spent on my own, not just the solo living, but the narrowness of focusing on a screen where at times I felt I was part of the Matrix, especially that white blank room with its single chair and sometimes feeling like ‘the long-distance runner’.
There’s discipline required to keep going, keep focusing, remembering that all things pass - good, bad, indifferent.
What positives have come from all this?
Will I get bored with using Zoom as a platform to continue my work and connections with friends and colleagues?
No, in many ways it's now become a three-dimensional platform for me - a way of throwing open a new window:
I can use it remotely to connect with UK long-distance clients and global clients (on that comment, I do miss travelling). I don’t have to travel to China three or four times a year - I can Zoom call my suppliers and discuss all requirements.
My working life has new horizons, new ways of connecting and staying connected. I can build meaningful worldwide networks and even add on a new career in virtually mentoring young schoolgirls, using my business experience to help guide and nurture them.
I’ve found I’m a new, different, more confident self and have created my own TV personality when on screen.
It helped me connect to another side of myself, developing my own leadership skills, which I thought I lacked, and to open my eyes to new technological opportunities to make the unworkable work
It’s also made me realise how much I have missed the human connection and the human hug. My God, I so missed that physical hug and warmth of a loving, friendly embrace.