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We’re Here With You

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I’m not sure what last week was like for you, but I’m guessing it felt different from the week before. You may have experienced major changes in your work situation, your finances, your child-care scheme, your pantry inventory, your worldview, your handwashing technique, your vacation plans, and your feelings towards doorknobs.

What seemed relevant then may not now, and vice-versa. I don’t believe I heard a single mention of the US election for an entire week, which was surreal. Only six days ago I was quite interested in the results of certain NHL games. Now that feels like a memory from childhood, and there are no NHL games anyway. Also, over a 48 hour span, the topic I was going to post on Raptitude started to seem a little out of touch, then became completely inappropriate — the joys of connecting with strangers in public places.

I do think staying close to our fellow humans is a vital aspect of global well-being right now, but we don’t want to connect in ways that allow our germs to connect as well. Depending on where you live, you may have been asked (or ordered) not to shake hands, high-five, shop, dine out, hug, lift weights, throw a party, give a speech, or dance anywhere but in your apartment.

Thankfully, we have the futuristic power of connecting via wire and wi-fi. Even from within isolation we can exchange kind words and thoughts through sterile electronic channels. We can even stream our faces onto screens inches from our friends’ real faces, with no risk of germs hopping over. That is pretty amazing. Pandemic sufferers of the past would not believe our luck, in that regard at least.

So it seems like the perfect time to use these connectivity superpowers for their ability to keep us close when we’re apart. I’ve already heard of isolated friends having drinks or dinner via Skype or Zoom. People are rediscovering the telephone function of their telephones. We have many ways to safely check on people. For all the disruption and danger the world is facing from our self-isolation efforts, we’re quite well equipped to stay in touch.

With this in mind, I’d like to make use of one technological power I’ve mostly neglected. A blog is usually used as a megaphone — one person broadcasts, others tune in, repeat. But it can also function as a sort of conference room, if we invite people to share their stories in the comment section.

As of this week, this blog is 11 years old. Back when it started, I would semi-regularly ask who is reading it and what they’re up to, because I just didn’t know. I still don’t — I do see the numbers, and I know there are thousands of you every day. But with the exception of a few regular commenters, I have no idea who you are, where in the world you’re reading from, and what I might see if I could stick my head through your device’s screen and look around.

Here’s what I’ve asked readers in the past, and would like to ask you now:

Who are you? Who is the person reading this blog?

Looking up from the screen before you — what’s happening around you? In this room and in your community?

And how are you doing?

Let us know in the comment section. Whatever you feel like sharing. Even if you don’t normally comment, many of your peers would love to hear from you. Just introduce yourself and tell us what’s going on in your corner of the world.

And read a few other people’s comments. It just takes one minute and will help us all feel a little less, uh… socially distant.

Every time we’ve done this in the past, it’s created a tangible sense of being among others. Even when you’re browsing a website by yourself in your dim apartment, you’re doing it alongside many other real, physical people. Their thoughts and hearts can be here with you, even though their bodies aren’t. Living in the future allows for this magic.

Browsing through other people’s accounts of their own physical corner of the world cuts through the illusion that the internet is made of webpages. It isn’t — it’s made of people.

So, world — give us the view from where you are. And discover who’s here with you.

I’ll share the view from my own window in a bit.


Photo by Luke Insoll

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