Social distancing regulations and the nature of COVID-19 have kept people physically apart from one another. As long as there is a risk of transmission, people have no choice but to stay socially distant even with their dearest families and friends.
This is just one of the ways in which the pandemic has changed our way of life. Almost a year into this crisis, however, people have slowly learned to adapt to the new norms that emerged from this global health crisis. Scientists and health regulatory bodies in the United States have warned that the world might not experience the pre-pandemic normal again until 2022. It’s a tough idea to accept, but it is the reality we’re facing — and people are learning to cope with it in various ways.
Here are a few examples of how people stay connected while staying physically apart:
1. Using clear physical barriers.
The World Health Organization advised people to maintain a one-meter distance with one another to reduce the risk of transmission in case an infected individual sneezes or coughs in public. This proved challenging to the public transport and food industries as their services are designed to bring people together.
When the restrictions that kept restaurants closed and taxis parked during the first few weeks of the pandemic finally eased, business owners quickly explored measures that would allow them to get back in business while observing regulations on COVID-19 prevention. One of them is installing clear, acrylic barriers inside taxis and restaurants.
In the Philippines, where mall culture thrives and dining out has become a weekly custom for families and friends, tables with clear, custom acrylic barriers in the middle have become a common sight inside fast-food chains and restaurants. In Canada, taxi operators installed temporary, plexiglass shields to protect their drivers while enabling them to make a living during the pandemic. These clear barriers enable people to compensate for the lack of facial cues (because everyone’s presumably wearing masks) by communicating through hand signals and body language.
2. Taking advantage of the Internet to talk to family and friends.
Social media sites have long enjoyed high traffic and user logins, but those numbers increased further by 10.5% during the pandemic. People log on Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and other popular social media platforms to stay in touch with friends, find entertaining content, and share inspiring stories and media during these bleak times.
It’s not just social media sites that saw increases in users. Business conferencing applications also saw a boost in downloads and subscriptions, logging 62 million downloads on March 14 to 21 of this year alone. This proves that people seek more interactive means of communication than just text messaging or sending DMs. Since we can’t meet in person just yet, video conferencing is the next best alternative.
3. Holding virtual get-togethers.
Besides video conferencing, people also use the Internet to hold activities they would normally enjoy together in person. Instead of watching movies at the cinema, for example, people simultaneously stream movies on VOD platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+.
Another activity that became popular during the pandemic is gaming. Multiplayer games, for example, have become a favorite Friday-evening activity among office colleagues who now work from home.
Of the many lessons that the pandemic has taught us, the need to stay connected is one of the most important ones. Another realization is that we are not entirely helpless in these difficult times. With a little innovation and technology, we can create a new normal that enables people to strengthen existing and form new connections.