COVID-19 has us on lockdown and physical distancing. As we noted in an earlier Insight Journal, the days where we would stroll over, unannounced, to our neighbor, or perhaps our grandparents who lived down the street right next to our aunt and uncle, are mostly in the past.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t go out and meet each other. It’s just that we do that somewhere else. Online, to be exact. Corona proved this insight right. Now that the current pandemic forces us to live predominantly online, our virtual connectedness is speeding up. And changing shape.
Stepping up our game
Connecting with peers in Messenger chatrooms almost seems archaic now. Highlighting our emotions with those early emoticons–ha! Already before COVID-19, we stepped up that game with apps like FaceTime that would allow us to have dinner with the family, even when each member was in a different time zone. Or to pray together with the Pope’s wearable eRosary. Corona just sped things up.
Working from home and homeschooling are two examples of how main aspects of our previous physical connectives moved online. Luckily, the youngest generations are ready for it. As we discussed in an earlier edition, Gen Alpha is a generation defined by technology. From birth on, Gen Alpha is soaked in tech-enhanced products, and now this generation leads the family in technology. Digital classrooms, Google Jamboard and online classes won’t faze them… we’re more concerned for their teachers, a generation not yet as comfortable or naturally infused with tech!
Now that we are temporarily robbed of our physical closeness, industries must turn a creative corner to offer some sense of normalcy through shared experiences.
Netflixparty synchronizes video playback and adds group chat while watching a movie or show together.
Celebrating a milestone with a fancy dinner out isn’t off the table either, as many restaurants now offer curbside delivery. Especially during restaurant week, hop online, order from your favorite place, and wait for your order to be dropped off at your doorstep with the required six feet distance.
Culture vultures that yearn for some intellectual input, can still experience museums, theatres, dance companies and inspirational platforms like Skillshare, online.
And for those who are feeling lonely and cut off from the world, and perhaps don’t have friends to connect to digitally, AI offers a solution with Replika, a friendly chatbot that holds in-depth conversation.
We don’t know when this lockdown will be over, and if by then, we will have forgotten the art of physical face-to-face communication. No need for worry though. We’ve written a handy little guide about this very subject, called Speak Human To Me, in Tchai TCHI Magazine number Four, read the article if you think you might benefit.
Our new normal
We’re still getting used to the way life looks now, but perhaps this will soon be our new normal. We seem to be adapting quite well to zoom meetings for work, school, or a ‘night on the town’ from our living room. Perhaps we should expand digital tourism and VR travel as well; it could have potentially saved us this virus! So consider swapping your goggles and deep-water camera for a VR headset. Maybe in the future, all our virtual avatars will be meeting up and going on digital travel explorations.
And who needs a body, anyway? We can grow our babies in a living room pod and dress ourselves digitally. Elon Musk would be a happy camper. He dreams of connecting human brains to computers within ten years. He imagines replacing biological bodies with digital clouds when we die, so our minds can go on ‘living’. His ideas may be a little out there, but it seems like so is our future.
The future of touch
Now that we all have to do without, and we have time to ponder the nature of touch, we wonder what the future will hold for good old skin to skin contact. From people singing to each other across Italian squares to sharing phone calls with unknown elderly to battle the loneliness, it seems we all still yearn for human contact. Perhaps we will expand on it through the technical advancements of Haptic Touch, adding the sensory experience of touch in virtual reality through sound waves. Possibly, virtual snuggles will be the new cozy. And maybe teledildonics (it’s a real term—don’t look at us like that!) and other long-distance intimate toys will really build some excitement, so to speak. Whatever it is, it seems that we’ve entered an era that will fully embrace a new sense of digital closeness.
1. Living in simulation? – Elon Musk
2. Black Mirror Striking Vipers > a must-see on Netflix
3. Black Mirror Black Museum > another one