I was sitting with three of the most brilliant business minds in NYC a couple weekends ago. We were at a little hole-in-the-wall bar in Cold Springs, NY called, Doug’s Pretty Good Bar — and the name says it all.
It was dimly lit. Cheeky-and-slightly-brash wooden signs adorned the walls. Tables separated by clear shower curtains rigged up to the ceiling with twist ties, and a delightful owner — Doug — who was wearing bright pink reading glasses and hiking boots.
And they boast the best burgers in town. And, according to my comrades, that was a correct accolade.
But what was most striking about that afternoon was not the all-beef patties, or the ice cold beers we were sipping.
But rather, the conversation.
And the topic? Digital fatigue.
You see, we had all just come off of a five mile hike through the Cold Springs mountains, during which, none of us were on our phones. We were completely present, surrounded by nature, focusing on navigating the rocky terrain, and not once were we tempted by an Instagram notification or a text message *ping.*
Then, as soon as we sat down for lunch, what was the first thing we all did? Whip out our phones to check what we missed.
And we all kind of chuckled as we all looked up, only to realize that the lull in conversation was because we had all become instantaneously engrossed in our screens.
It took us less than 2.5 minutes.
But our “social eqttiquite blunder” led to a really fascinating discussion about digital fatigue.
It was a term that I had never heard before, but after hearing it and putting two and two together, I instantly understood.
In my line of work as a blogger and freelance writer, I am used to constantly being connected to my computer, and living and communicating virtually with the people I am working with.
But these NYC business hotshots, when COVID hit, had dream offices on Madison Avenue, down on Wall Street at the new World Trade Center, and in bustling midtown. So to go from that, to working from home – communicating with their teams and clients virtually, through Zoom, through Skype, etc…it was a huge adjustment.
Overnight, their corporate office culture was flipped on its head, and they’ve spent the last seven months adjusting.
And the consensus was unanimous: people are really battling intense digital fatigue.
The impersonal nature of communication. The frustration with slow or clunky bandwidths. The technical glitches that lead to inefficiency. And frankly, just the lack of having the ability to bump into a friendly coworker in at the “water cooler,” or hit the bar after work for a drink at happy hour. These things wear on a person, and make — especially working from home — an isolating and frustrating experience, without a social outfit.
And sadly, there’s really no end in sight. At least not until a vaccine. Companies in NYC have pretty much stated that working-from-home will be the norm until at least 2021. Some of my friends — at very well known companies, I might add — were told they were going to be working from home until SUMMER 2021!
I don’t know about you, but hearing that just takes the wind out of my sails. Of course, I’m glad that everyone is taking the proper precautions and staying safe, but gosh – that just sounds emotionally and socially exhausting.
We are social beings. We were created for community. And completely severing those human to human — in person — interactions has been just detrimental to the spirit and to the soul.
The virtual interactions, though they’ve been a life saver in the pandemic, simply don’t cut it.
When you’re in person, you can feel a person’s energy. The chemistry and connection is palpable, truly. And that simply doesn’t translate through a Zoom meeting, or a phone call.
My friends in their corporate culture are feeling that. And I have definitely felt that, even with communicating with my family. Just being with them in person here this last week – there is a tangible connection that cannot be replicated digitally. It’s the extra linger when you touch their hand. It’s the special twinkle in their eye when you laugh at one of their corny dad jokes. It’s the comforting smell of home. It’s the true sound and timber of their speaking voice, and that special gentle tone they use just with you. It’s the loving shoulder squeeze when they pass by. These things are invaluable. And I have missed them so much.
Digital fatigue is shadowing relationships. It’s plaguing the work place. Heck – it’s doing a number on dating!
My single friends all lament to me about how exhausting and just – unproductive – it is trying to meet someone romantically. For starters you have to get to know each other virtually, and then when you finally do get the courage to meet in person, you have to socially distance and you can’t even see their face behind their mask!!
But I digress.
As winter approaches, we’re going to have to get creative on ways to safely interact, and fight digital fatigue.
But I’d love to know what you’ve done to combat digital fatigue? Are you trying to safely gather in person? Are you limiting or setting boundaries with your scrolling habits? Or your kids’?
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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