It’s hard to find an area in our society that has not been impacted by COVID-19. Adjusting to the “new normal” has been easier for some sectors and social institutions than others. For instance, grocery stores around the world quickly adopted face masks, gloves, and disinfectants to ensure their safety. But what about our more immaterial institutions? How can intimacy, love, and relationships protect themselves during COVID-19?
Some might think it’s frivolous to think about feelings during a pandemic, but we can now see that strict social distancing has real, tangible effects on our well-being. Apart from depression and anxiety, loneliness has been linked to somatic illnesses like arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. You may be safe from the virus but staying far apart from your loved ones can also have devastating effects. As we tackle this pandemic, loneliness has slipped under the radar and become a silent presence in our everyday lives.
Luckily, technology bridges the gap between us and those around us. Your opinion matters, your feelings matter, and it’s more important than ever to find someone that can listen to you. Social media platforms are finally making good on their promise to bring people together. Instant messaging apps can get you in touch with your family and friends. But, after sharing another story about the movie you want to watch or your dinner plans, the crazy cocktail of boredom and fear can still linger long in your heart.
New digital platforms are quickly stepping up to better fill the needs of those looking for deeper connections with new people. For example, Jasmin.com lets its members talk to influencers about any topics they’d like. Through messaging and video calls, members can enter a safe space with an influencer where they can openly talk and pass the time.
Perhaps this is the future of intimacy and relationships. Less focus on massive social media platforms and more on one-on-one connections. We will no longer find solace in massified, video calls with 9 little screens serving as a succedaneum for our friends. Status updates sent to thousands across the globe will start to lose their luster. It will be just us and somebody else we really care about, crafting a special relationship and caring deeply about each other. Ironically enough, this harkens back to a time before the mass adoption of social media.
Through video calls, pop ups and notifications, technology is helping us keep the flame of our precious, one-on-one interpersonal relationships more alive than ever. Sending a personalized video for someone’s birthday means a lot more now than before. Even a simple “Hey, how are you?” can instantly brighten up someone’s day. People are getting very creative with how to bring people into their homes via cell phones: Should we video call while I cook dinner? Should we share a screen and watch a movie together? Maybe we can video call so you can help me cope with the stress of leaving my house. With someone by our side, it seems like we can finally tackle this crisis one day at a time.
Technology is helping us realize that nothing brings people together like a shared experience. Whether they be good or bad, knowing that someone is going through something similar instantly bridges any distance. If you want to keep your relationships alive during this time, be thoughtful, be patient, and think about others first. Empathy will always be the only way to get near to someone’s heart, but technology is helping us express that empathy when we need it to show most.
So, what can you do right now to safeguard your intimacy and relationships? For the first time ever, it’s OK to talk to strangers on the internet. They won’t be strangers for long once you share your feelings and experiences with each other. Loneliness is a real problem but having a phone with the right websites or apps can keep it at bay. So tap to reach out. Find a new chat partner. Send a message, a photo, or a video and be a beacon of light in these dark and uncertain times.
Author: Guillaume Tanferri Co-writers: Fernando Garcia and Gary Kovacs
1 Brody, Jane E. “The Surprising Effects of Loneliness on Health.” The New York Times. The New York Times, December 11, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/11/well/mind/how-loneliness-affects-ourhealth.html.