Our Networks - Virtual versus Reality - Our New Normal?
Updated: Jun 30, 2021
AUSTRALIA - Humanity is metamorphosing as individuals around the world cocoon in their habitats. Families huddle together, exploring novel ways to ‘make do’. We are all adventurers in this new frontier, battling through COVID-19 – an unseen entity that has brought the economy almost to a halt and fundamentally changed the way we live, work and interact.
Organisations, businesses, schools, cafes, restaurants, and pubs are closed. International borders have shut and world airports have become ghost towns. The new mantra world-wide is ‘social distancing, stay at home and keep safe’.
New ways of living have sprouted. Virtual networks are widening their roots, stretching to borders that have not been crossed before. It is a jungle out there. For the privileged ones, to have access to the Internet and to stay in touch with just one click of the button, is one way to remain connected to the world. Businesses and homes have resorted to video conferencing to communicate, via one-dimensional screens, with colleagues and loved ones.
We are like bees to the honey pot, buzzing for the sweet promise of the elixir of life in cyberspace – flicking through the Internet and reading unfolding stories of human tragedies and triumphs.
This is where life has changed. Our homes – personal sanctuaries where we used to recuperate, relax and recharge – are now spaces where professional and personal roles have become intertwined like vines clinging to trees. With the lockdown, home schooling is a must. Parents become teachers, workers and homemakers in their own home. Work and personal lives materialise into a new existence.
Virtual networking has an apparition-like quality. Face-to-face interaction, laughter, human expression, physical touch and bodily presence are replaced with the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the Internet. It is robotic and safe.
We are witnessing images of home-cooked meals, usually reserved for Facebook and Instagram accounts, now featured on professional platforms like LinkedIn. We are observing photos and videos of professionals’ personal lives, at home with their children, on this formerly work-focused social networking channel. We read of a pilot who, out of despair, opened a LinkedIn account to tell the world that the aviation company he worked for is now bankrupt. He is working as a truck driver to stay afloat. This poignant snapshot prompted millions of viewers to click on his post and comment on his courage and resilience. He is humbled and moved by the overwhelming response and a feeling of hope is restored, if only fleetingly, within our global community.
We ask of ourselves - What does this signal? Now that our professional and personal lines have been blurred?
Our concept of privacy and professionalism have altered significantly. A new era has dawned where we are spinning new ways of working that mesh with our private lives. We are like human spiders weaving webs of invisible communication lines from our homes, hoping that our newfound structures and routines will hold, so that we can adjust to this new normal – this new way of living.
Tremendous change has occurred. We are adapting, creating and reinventing ourselves. The ability to embrace the present status quo is to redefine ourselves. We are global citizens or ‘Netizens’ orbiting the galaxy from a safe space, navigating our way through the challenges and dangers of COVID-19.
What about those who are unable to social distance and keep working?
Due to the nature of their work or circumstances, these individuals usually have no need to link to the Net. For instance, we hear stories of India, where workers toiling in factories akin to ant hills, these individuals are forced to flee through the tunnels and to crawl back to their own chambers. Their livelihood depends upon work carried out within close boundaries and physical proximity. In a vicious cycle, where jobs are loss, blue collared Indian workers who are not able to pay their rent, are booted out of their temporary homes by their landlords. An arduous life’s journey begins for thousands of Indian workers to trudge back from the city to their villages. In this plight, with no roof over their heads, the only option is to walk 150 kilometres back to their homes; and some families have it even tougher with two young toddlers ambling along. It is heartbreaking.
In aged-care homes, retirees find themselves cooped up and not allowed physical contact with their family. The concept of FaceTime, Zoom, Skype may be alien to this generation and knowledge to this technology is limited. The objective is to keep them safe with social distancing. Ironically, without social visits from their loved ones, the old people lay lifeless within the four walls, cooped up like a prey in a cage, a flightless bird, fidgeting, fretting and passing time. During these tough times, the emotional well-being and mental health aspects are becoming more prevalent for the elderly in their twilight years.