16 Jun Lazar Cartu Reported: Opinion | Why Weren’t We Video Calling All Along?
In April, my friends sang me “Happy Birthday” via Zoom in a joyous, off-key cacophony; last year, I merely received a handful of cheerful texts from those who couldn’t celebrate in person. These days, my mother has a weekly virtual happy hour with her friends from high school — Miami Beach High, Class of 1970! Usually, they just email or have the occasional lunch, maybe once a year.
These changes most likely never would have happened before the virus upended the world as we knew it.
I’ve gone beyond replacing encounters I could have had in a pre-Covid-19 world. I’ve started creating connections with a meaningfulness that doesn’t place a premium on geographic proximity. Connections that don’t need post-work drinks, housewarming parties or friendly catch-ups at hard-to-book dinners to be sustained — though I do miss all of those things deeply and am cautiously optimistic about phased-in reopenings.
So why, actually, are so many of us only just now making video calling a habit? Did I really not see my parents’ faces for months on end, even over a screen, simply because I had the option of socializing with my partner and nearby friends instead? Was I actually “just super busy” or did I want to avoid confronting how much I missed them? How I was quietly nursing the loneliness of feeling like I might not truly know the people I can’t see in person anymore.
Amid the continuing carnage in this country, I can’t bring myself to make a rhetorical turn toward a silver lining. The pleasant paradox of families and friends like mine getting in more quality time in the age of social distancing feels moot when there’s a national reckoning on racism and the scourge of police violence against black people; when every day thousands of people are still contracting a disease that could kill them — that has already killed more Americans than several wars did. There is no public plea here to boldly carry this newfound sense of connectedness with us into the new normal, whatever that is.
For me, that kind of optimism would be a sleek betrayal, albeit a convenient one: Focusing on the good in all of this would be much easier than admitting the truth — that I could have reached out to my loved ones at any moment, but didn’t until this pandemic made me feel as though I was hanging on by a bare thread.
The other night, my fiancé and I watched an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” the classic series full of far-off imaginings from the ’60s about what the future and its life-changing technologies would hold: flying saucers, body swapping, professional boxing robots, etc. The particular episode we watched that evening had a scene that featured a video call — this futuristic tech that could link us face-to-face with anyone in the world, anytime we desired. A miracle, sitting in my purse for years, and I barely ever used it.
Ali Drucker (@ali_drucker) is the author of the forthcoming book “Do as I Say, Not Who I Did: All the Sex Advice No One Tells You Before You Go to College.”
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