Covid-19 has turned so much of life upside down. Both work and our personal lives are playing out on Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts (now Google Meet) and other platforms. Our group experiences outside of work and family are being beamed to our homes through Facebook Live or other livestreams. We’re using webcams and trading tips about our favorite podcasts, video series, on-demand webinars and online cooking classes. We’re perusing YouTube channels and products available on Amazon just trying to find meaning, distraction, entertainment and grounding. Because the truth is, we yearn for what’s real. Before coronavirus, we might have spent a little too much time on our Facebook pages or other social media, but we had real human interactions as well: hugs, eye contact, shared meals, discussions, concerts, sports events, field trips and more, and we’re missing them.
Just a few short months ago, a virtual experience was something you did because it was convenient and easy. But the pandemic has changed all of that. Now, if you want to look at an apartment, the only way to do it is a virtual tour. All across the United States, from New York to Oregon to South Dakota to Florida (indeed, you can take an Online Orlando tour replete with a virtual visit to Disney World — we are not sure about how they simulate a roller coaster), people are replacing the real with online experiences, a new kind of virtual reality that’s less about cool graphics and imagined places and more about keeping in touch with what is real.
From story times to museums (yes, you can now take extensive virtual tours at the Louvre, the British Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and many more online) to PBS binges, to daily ovations for healthcare workers in NYC, people are trying to recapture the culture and interactions that we took for granted. Virtual events are a daily happening now. Even on the weekends, we schedule game nights (who knew that Millennials knew so much trivia?) and cocktail parties via video call so that we can feel what it’s like to interact in real time. From family fun experiences like theme parks and zoos (such as the award-winning San Diego Zoo in case you always wanted to go) to photos and videos available via Google Arts & Culture and Google Earth, we are trying to enjoy unforgettable visuals and virtual getaways that feel like real experiences. All from the strangely uncomfortable comfort of our homes.
So, how do you keep virtual experiences real and valuable? Presence, patience and priority. Enjoy virtual visits for what they are–you’re probably in better touch with a lot of people than would otherwise be typical. Stay with it. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Be kind to yourself and others, as we are all disoriented and pent up in one way or another. Use this time to assess what you truly miss so you can plan to make it happen when you can. Those are the keys to keeping it real.