Extended social Isolation begets lethargy and despondency. People are currently experiencing far less in-person contact and interaction of any kind than prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are growing more accustomed to less interaction. There is habitual cocooning. When the pandemic started, people could ride the momentum of a lifetime of human interaction. Then the music stopped. A blip became permanent. What to do about it?
The COVID-19 pandemic began in March—possibly the longest eight months of people’s lives. Outside of personal safe bubbles, the size of which is varying depending upon the surging of the pandemic, people have had limited in-person contact. The citizenry is generally out in public on a limited basis simply to do errands and otherwise are staying at home and keeping their respective bubbles as small as possible. If they go to the office, it will be on a limited basis, with few colleagues in the building. If they are travelling, it will be with a post-apocalyptic ambience of deserted hotels and airports (down to 10% of regular patrons).
This dynamic of limited human interaction is the same worldwide from Canada to Singapore as societies grapple with how best to deal with present COVID-19 circumstances. Singapore’s lifeblood is travel and movement. The packed streets are normally like human pinball. A friend in Singapore said that he sensed a form of lethargy among people in the densely packed city-state. People are getting worn down. It’s as if the momentum is wearing off. They now need to face the new reality.
It’s time to change how we think about social interaction. Dr. Renee El-Gabalawy, a clinical psychologist and a professor at the University of Manitoba [view article] said it's crucial to maintain social connections and a support network, even if it's through virtual means: “One of the most significant components for some people of the measures in place is they feel very socially isolated from the people they normally spend a lot of time with, whether it's close friends, colleagues, family."
Gabalawy also noted, "It's really important to be creative about connecting with people, virtually, getting that social support because it will be protective for your mental health and even your physical health." An important point is that the virtual environment is a way to stay connected to others. Human resilience is closely linked to the depth and strength of our interpersonal connections, including our involvement in groups and communities.
The bottom line is that people need to get used to the new reality of how to build and maintain a social and business network—and adapt yourself to it. Likewise, people should be regularly participating in events, hybrid and virtual.
So, can virtual experiences help? Virtual groups can, indeed, help reduce the experience of social isolation. Virtual communication paves the way for bringing people together. They are a means to maintain a sense of continuity in personal and professional relationships in these difficult times. Interestingly enough, the ELO Forums have been in-person events for 15 years. This year, for the first time ever, we are moving to an online format.
We are, however, not simply doing an in-person event in an online format. No, we are attempting to create a new experience. We are able to have what we call a “hybrid approach.” The event is online, but people can watch the event as part of a cluster or small in-person group. That group can be two or more people, subject to current government regulations.
The ELO Forums are, in effect, an anti-COVID remedy. They provide a way to connect with people and be part of the provincial, national and global community of Christian marketplace and entrepreneurial leaders. The Forums will facilitate interaction with others rather than simply being a passive experience. We are organizing attendees into virtual groups who can meet at the start and end of the Forum. There will also be virtual breakout sessions where people can connect with a new group of individuals.
We encourage you not to pass on a virtual event while waiting for things to get back to normal. There is likely no going back to normal. Get used to a new environment. If you say you are tired of Zoom, well, get over it. At the start of the 20th century, there were surely people who were tired of cars. They didn’t stop driving.
Situations like the COVID pandemic are a barometer for leaders. Who blossoms? Who wilts? So, we would encourage you to combat COVID and connect with others. Don’t wallow in isolation. Now is the time to be inspired and encouraged. Now is the time to keep the community alive and to be involved in an online event. You have the opportunity to connect with a global community of marketplace and entrepreneurial leaders at the ELO Forums this month. Now is the time to lead. We look forward to seeing you at the ELO Forums this month!