The novel coronavirus has dramatically changed how we spend time and share physical and virtual space with each other. On Friday, March 27, conflict mediator and author Priya Parker joined head of TED Chris Anderson and current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers on TED Connects to discuss what we all can do to stay connected and sustain relationships while apart during the pandemic. Here’s some advice to help you get through this uncertain time:
Bring intention to planning a virtual gathering
As platforms like Zoom, Slack and email become more integrated into our lives, it’s clear that technology will play an important role in helping us keep in touch. Whether you’re organizing a Zoom dinner party or Facetiming a friend, Parker invites us to consider how we can elevate the conversation beyond just check-ins. In planning a virtual gathering, ask:
• Who’s joining and why?
• What are your community’s needs?
• What’s the reason you’re coming together?
As the pandemic evolves, these needs will likely shift. Stay attuned to the kinds of connections your communities are seeking.
Include fun themes to elevate your digital get-togethers
Parker suggests centering your gatherings around themes or activities to encourage more meaningful and purposeful conversations. Incorporate elements of the physical world to create a shared experience, like asking everyone to wear a funny costume or making the same recipe together. Though screens don’t quite replace the energy of in-person gatherings, we can still strengthen community bonds by reminding ourselves that there are real people on the other end of our devices.
Set healthy boundaries to maintain wellbeing
As we’re figuring out the best way to exist in the digital world, it’s also crucial we put in the effort to meaningfully connect with those we’re quarantining with. The distinctions between time to work, socialize and rest can grow blurrier by the day, so be sure to set boundaries and ground rules with those you live with. In having this conversation with your roommates, family or partner, reflect on these prompts:
• How do you want to distinguish time spent together versus apart?
• How do you want to share time together?
• Since we look at screens most of the day, could it be helpful to set no-screen times or brainstorm new, non-digital ways to hang out?
Allow yourself to reflect on the unknown
It’s important to acknowledge that this is not a normal time, Parker says. The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the world, and as a global society we’ll experience the reverberations of this period as they ripple across every sector of human life. Make sure to create space for those conversations, too.
Take time to wander through the unknown, to talk about how we are being changed — individually and collectively — by this shared experience. It’s perfectly normal to feel worried, vulnerable, even existential, and this may be a great time to lean into those feelings and think about what really matters to you.
Recognize the power and feeling community brings — no matter the size
While the coronavirus pandemic has physically isolated many of us from each other, our ingenuity and resilience ensures that we can still build and forge community together. Across the world, people are gathering in new and amazing ways to set up “care-mongering” support groups, sing with their neighbors, take ceramics classes, knit together and break bread.
Now is the time to discover (or rediscover) the value and power of community. We are all members of many different communities: our neighborhoods, families, countries, faith circles and so on. Though we’re living in unprecedented times of social isolation, we can forge stronger bonds by gathering in ways that reflect our best values and principles. In the United Kingdom, a recent campaign asked people across the country to go outside at a synchronized time and collectively applaud health workers on the frontlines of the crisis; a similar effort was made across India to ring bells in honor of the ill and those caring for them. During this crisis and beyond, we can use thoughtful ritual-making to transform our unease and isolation into community bonding.
“Gathering is contagious,” Parker says. “These small, simple ideas allow people to feel like we can shape some amount — even a small amount — of our collective reality together.”