By: AnnMargaret Haines
Before COVID-19 became a pandemic and states across the U.S. began to shut down, it was incredibly rare for someone in my family group chat of 10 to simply send a text – and connecting on a group video call was unheard of. But once the reality of the pandemic set in, our family decided we needed to check in on each other, especially because my dad and sister have health conditions that put them in the “at-risk” category). So, my mom sent us a Zoom calendar invite for one Sunday afternoon.
And it was a smash hit.
Between the 100% attendance rate, abundance of dogs and guest appearance of my nephew in his dinosaur costume, we knew this needed to happen regularly. We immediately changed the calendar invite to a weekly occurrence, and now I feel closer to my family than I have in a long time. I’ve lived on the opposite side of the country from my family for the past five years, so it feels silly it took this long for me to understand the importance of video calls. But I know I’m not alone in this COVID-19 epiphany.
As professional communicators, we understand the importance of consistent, clear communication to foster and maintain strong relationships with our clients, the media and colleagues. So why doesn’t that always transfer to our personal lives?
It feels challenging to keep in touch with friends and loved ones who aren’t in close proximity. But it isn’t. We live in the 21st century, and we have technology at our fingertips to connect with anyone anywhere in the world at any time. So why did it take a pandemic for my family to realize the value of technology to help us stay in touch?
Besides using Zoom to connect with friends and family, people have found new and creative ways to use their talents to help people come together and stay entertained during this challenging time. My brother-in-law BJ, the former head chef at a Michelin star restaurant in Washington, D.C. who now works on opening his own restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, took to Instagram to help his friends and family eat well during quarantine. He started hosting Instagram live cooking classes every Sunday so people could follow along and cook delicious food together – from biscuits with miso honey butter to the perfect fast-food burger. It was such a success, a Columbus paper wrote about his classes and invited more people to attend. Not only has he helped maintain togetherness during quarantine, he’s simultaneously bettered his career by earning free PR and keeping his chef skills sharp.
It’s incredible to see the new and creative ways individuals and brands have taken advantage of technology and their extra free time to showcase their strengths and bring people together. From dance challenges on TikTok, to virtual events and webinars, there’s so many ways for us to connect with each other virtually. While many are without jobs or traveling to work sites amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of us have technology to thank for helping us stay employed during this time.
Before March, many of us took technology for granted. It’s important to remember how lucky we are to live in time when we can stay in touch with each other no matter the distance, even during a global pandemic. Even just 30 years ago, it would have been a different story.
We need to continue to harness the power of technology to lessen the negative effects of quarantine so we can continue to stay home, stay safe and combat the spread of COVID-19.
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AnnMargaret Haines is an assistant account executive based in the Phoenix office. She specializes in writing and media relations for a variety of clients in industries spanning healthcare, education, nonprofit and consumer technology.