Humans are social creatures. Connection is our lifeblood. This is one of the reasons that this time of “social distancing” and quarantining to stave of the COVID-19 pandemic is such a trying time.
But we are also resilient and creative creatures. We are finding new rituals of connection, whether that means using technology in new and different ways or coming together in different ways in real life.
We asked The Good Men Project Community:
How are YOU continuing to forge connection with the people you know and love? In what innovative and creative ways are you using technology to connect and come together? How are you managing through fear and stress?
What follows is a soul-affirming collection of your responses.
“In these unsettling times, I’ve been a bit further unsettled by the term “social distancing”, and a friend of mine made a great observation today that zeroed in on it for me. I think we should be calling it “Physical Distancing”, or something to that effect. Because in these times we can and should be using every safe outlet and all of our technology to keep each other close. Be it Facebook, FaceTime, Zoom, or texting, in this uncertain time, we as humans need to be socially close.
We need to be hugging our families who are physically with us, keeping our friends and our extended families close with us even though they are physically apart, and we need to be doing what we can to support our communities, our first responders and medical heroes, and those directly affected by this terrible affliction.
That, to me, is not social distance. That is what makes us strong enough to get through even this.”
— Fred Sinyak
“We’ve been coming together with family and friends using Zoom video-conferencing. Whether its an inter-generational family Netflix Party – Thursday night is movie night and we’ve seen Marlon Wayan’s Naked and Antman and the Wasp so far – or meeting virtually over Zoom for our monthly book club to share favorite passages of novels.
Next week for the Passover Holiday, when we usually gather for the holiday and the meal, we are each cooking dishes, distributing the food to all participants and then doing a virtual seder via Zoom. (Yes, it’s a lot of Zoom-ing). My sister’s band, TreeOh!, also used technology to come together and share their music last Friday night, with a special picture-in-picture-in-picture performance that allowed the three of them to be together, sort of.
It’s not all technology either, we also made signs and drove to my baby cousin’s house to celebrate his 2nd birthday at a responsible distance. It wasn’t perfect. I didn’t get to pick him up and we missed the hugs, but it was special to all be together. The love was still there.”
— Mike Kasdan, Director of Special Projects and Sr. Sports Editor of The Good Men Project
“I’m currently on my third week of quarantine, and live alone. It’s definitely been an opportunity to grow (that’s one way of putting it…!).
In my personal life, I’ve been talking to my family more than ever, who live in another city. We’ve had regular video calls and chat over Facebook every day of the week. Last night, my sisters and I even played a board game (Marrakech) online, with a video chat open so we could see each other, and it almost felt like we were there together, playing in person; laughing, accidentally knocking over pieces, creating rivalries and bonding, the usual stuff. It was pretty amazing to me!
Today, I’ve applied to be a volunteer to have phone calls with isolated seniors, a program some people have started in my city to keep them company and mentally healthy. I know how meaningful it is to have any form of company when you’re stuck at home by yourself. It’s tough to be in isolation, and I expect that this is going to last a while, so we will be better off making these adjustments proactively, so it isn’t such a shock if this lasts longer than expected.
As a musician (by hobby, not trade) I’m also trying to figure out ways I can still practice music with my musical friends from far away. I’m thinking video calls or collaborating through sharing an audio file and building on it in separate parts until we have a completed song! We will see :)”
— Emily Hodgkinson
I just had a six-hour cervical spine surgery in Miami, Florida. Of course, everyone was worried about my safety due to COVID-19. After I awoke, all my calls were on FaceTime.
My friends and family insist on face-to-face communications [over video] now. Despite our shoddy appearances it makes us feel closer, and we laugh at each other’s foibles.
— Vivian Doyle
Now more than ever, I pray that when I write the words “I hope this message finds you in good health and spirits,” the addressee is as hoped!
The following are a few of the things I am doing to connect with the people I know and care about the most:
Teleconferencing with groups of family members. For example, yesterday was grandmother’s day, so we teleconferenced with our son and his grandmothers. On Saturday, we are planning a virtual mini-family reunion.
Family Movie Watch Party. Tuesday is the day we usually go to Regal Theatre or AMC for the half-price night, but now on Tuesdays we hostia family and friends movie night using Netflix Party.
Daily, I do something called journaling forward, which I now share with family and friends who are looking for hopeful things to read. I’ve also started writing a collection of letters to friends and families to share their importance to me. I call it my “Eulogies to The Living.”
— Nate Turner
Today I was scheduled to present a lecture called “The 33 Flavors of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” along with a discussion of my book, Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight. I am still planning to do it, but doing it with Zoom rather than in person.
Although I can present the information, it will be less satisfying. Here’s why:
I once did a lecture for a medical school class in psychiatry and about six students sat in the last row of a huge amphitheater, the note takers who would gather the essential information to pass the exam. It felt like speaking into an echo chamber. I wanted to have a dialog with them, not a monologue. I wanted to hear their laughter and their excitement. When I speak to groups, I feed on that and it energizes me. Although I am somewhat comfortable with electronic communication, in the back of my mind is always the question, “What if something goes wrong? Will I be able to fix it?” That anxiety interferes with the fluidity of presenting.
Finally, many of the best exchanges with the audience follow a presentation, when someone corners me and says, “I’d like to ask you about something I didn’t feel comfortable bringing up in front of the group.”
We can off load our work to these new rules of connection, but we will lack the humanity of personal connection. But as I wrote in my Psychology Today blog, “Our constant preoccupation with cell phones has been distancing us from each other long before the COVID-19 pandemic.”
I miss hugs, and the thought of my husband dying without me being there to say, “I love you,” that one last time, is terrifying to me.
– Loren Olson
“In many ways, I am connecting more these days, or at least deeper.
I’m finding that people really want to have more meaningful conversations. Humor is really important.”
— Franklin Madison
“When my kids were young, we used to have a family movie night, where we would snuggle together in the den and watch a movie on Friday nights that we could all talk about together. My kids grew up, my husband and I separated, and we spread out to 4 different states. And then along came COVID-19. But for the first time in years — we had our family movie night again. We did a movie + chat window (using Netflix Party). It was me, my ex husband, my kids—and their significant others, chatting away through a movie we saw together. Goes to show that love not only connects … it expands.”
“My daughter lives in San Francisco, my son in Tennessee. The other day I ordered groceries to be delivered to each of their homes. Nice, healthy fruits and vegetables. Soup. A few comfort foods. Some things I love but am pretty sure they wouldn’t buy for themselves. And both my son and my daughter sent me photos of them enjoying the food and thanked me profusely. “Why that’s what moms are for,” I replied.
— Lisa Hickey, Publisher and CEO of The Good Men Project
“I am maintaining my ritual of morning tea and thoughtful reflection. The same as I have done for a couple decades.”
“On the other end of the spectrum, there are also the online dance parties that people like D-Nice, and QuestLove are doing.
They are becoming new rituals for communities that are geographically distant. ”
— Wilhelm Cortez, Executive Editor of The Good Men Project
“On a recent Call With the Publisher which we hold every week, several men on the call said that before COVID-19 they would never call other men without having some excuse — there was some news, or they wanted to ask a question or favor.
Calling other men “just to talk” seemed like something the women in their lives would do, but not something they would. But now? Men are calling men to just talk. It’s becoming a new ritual.”
“A lot of people I know are joining online book clubs and writing classes. Can’t afford a class? Start your own. Find fellow writer and workshop your writing in an online call—or even by email.”
“There are some great social support happenings in our town, specifically younger people organized to help elders and those who have health vulnerabilities. They would shop for us, do errands, and other tasks so that we could practice physical distancing while enjoying the benefits of social support.
I’ve also been talking more by phone with friends, family, and walking around my town seeing people I know, as well as connecting with strangers. There are real connections and feelings of mutual care and support.
‘Take care of yourself.’ ‘Be safe.’ ‘Do you need anything?’ were common shout-outs.
A neighbor’s upstairs window overlooked the widow of a woman who lives alone. They brought her three large pieces of paper. One Green, one Yellow, and one Red.
The woman put the Green one up when things were fine. The yellow one up when she needed a favor, an errand or some non-essential help. And the Red one up if she needed help immediately.
Someone in the family always checked to see what color was up.”
— Jed Diamond
“Searching for precedent in the Torah to guide us through this crisis, which is forcing us to take cover in our homes, many of us recall how Noah retreated into the ark with his family and animals to protect themselves from the deluge that threatened to destroy the world.
Amidst the litany of construction details Noah was instructed to follow when building the ark, three words [in the Hebrew] have always struck me:
“Make a window or skylight in the ark” – צהר תעשה לתבה
If Noah’s sole goal was to save himself and his family from the raging waters, he would never have compromised the structural strength of the ark by creating a window. This small detail comes to teach a grand lesson: Noah was not to turn away from what was happening in the outside world, even as he retreated inside for safety. He had to remain aware of, and sensitive to, the realities unfolding beyond his place of shelter. He was not to save his body at the expense of his soul.
Being isolated doesn’t mean being detached. Being sequestered doesn’t mean being silenced. Sadly, there is much to speak up about right now with whatever voice—digital or otherwise—we can raise.”
— Rabbi Adina Lewittes