(Stock photo)

COLUMN: Virtual gatherings during the pandemic

Video conferences bring friends and family together in a time of physical distancing

We enjoyed an Easter dinner with family on Sunday.

Seven of us were together, enjoying a special meal and catching up with each other.

No, we weren’t in the same room. We weren’t even in the same province.

Because of the restrictions in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we enjoyed a virtual Easter gathering, from different homes, using the Zoom platform to have a video chat.

This isn’t the first virtual gathering we’ve enjoyed during this pandemic.

A few days earlier, we had a virtual dinner with friends, again connecting through video chat.

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had at least five of these gatherings. They have included a pizza evening and a breakfast meeting.

Most of us, myself included, hadn’t heard of Zoom until just a few weeks ago. Now we use it frequently.

Board meetings, workplace conferences and gatherings with friends are all happening through this technology.

While video meetings aren’t quite the same as face-to-face, in-person gatherings, they are still a good way to connect with family and friends. While we are separated by our screens, we are still able to communicate with each other. And after a few minutes, it is almost as if we are together in the same room.

Almost, but not quite.

This is one way life has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this time of social distancing and other restrictions, so many of us have realized the importance of our connections with others.

I’m also noticing a change in phone conversations and text messages.

Phone calls go on a little longer than they did a month ago. And text message streams — even work-related communications — are becoming friendlier and more conversational than they were in the past.

This pandemic is teaching many of us how much we rely on each other and how much we need interaction with others.

As recently as a month ago, before restrictions on meetings and gatherings had been put in place, getting together with friends could be a difficult process.

Coordinating schedules meant some meetings and get-togethers had to be planned weeks in advance.

Now, with restrictions in place, the desire to meet and connect with others seems stronger than ever before.

Being apart is bringing us together.

We have the tools we need in order to connect with others.

Most if not all of us have computers, smart phones, tablets or other technology that allows us to connect with each other. Almost all will at least have a telephone. We have the ability to stay connected with each other.

And today we are communicating at a level never before reached.

I’m wondering why we didn’t put the same emphasis on connections and communications before this pandemic began.

More importantly, I’m wondering what will happen in the future, when the restrictions on meetings and physical distancing will be relaxed.

Those of us on our family and friends calls are already discussing ways to continue these conversations into the future. We are talking about how to keep in closer contact with each other, meeting in person with those who live nearby and continuing video chats with those who are farther away.

This pandemic is bringing a new appreciation to the value of friendships and family connections.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

ColumnistCoronavirus

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