I’ve often had a feeling of reluctance about the effects of new technology on how we live and work. My experience has frequently been that mobiles and tablets, alerts and instant messaging, impose on our attention, create information overload, make us feel more stressed, and distract us from the things that might be truly important.
But in our new situation with the coronavirus epidemic, almost everything, technology included, looks completely different.
The biggest changes we’re facing are how to adapt to the huge uncertainty and isolation that have arrived so quickly. The uncertainty over how so many people are going to stay well, keep their jobs, earn a living, and look after their loved ones is really daunting. And it’s magnified by the need to keep away from others and live in isolation.
One of the ways we’re beginning to adapt to the need for social isolation is by acknowledging and appreciating what technology can do for us now, in this strange new world.
In my own work, I’m no longer able to sit and talk with a supervisee in the same room. Or do some team coaching in an office. I’m not even able to meet with a small group on location, going with them to an art gallery or museum, or even to the open air of a park, where we usually explore and reflect together. All the normal forms of greeting and reassurance, which involve physical proximity, are lost to us now for a time, and maybe for a long time.
And gradually, in light of this, technology is starting to look like a lifeboat.
It’s starting to look more human and friendly, something which can mediate the connection, warmth and human encouragement we all need, especially in a social emergency. The more that physical contact is being curtailed, and the more we are self-isolating, the more I’m valuing the casual contact of messaging, the virtual face-to-face contact of work with all of my clients and not just those outside my immediate area, and the reassuring connections with friends and family as we reach out to each other in digital ways.
I acknowledge I’ve been using online tools for a long time – for example, by offering supervision to clients in Australia while I’m in London – but this somehow feels different now, and I’m curious to hear and read how others are finding it.