Mask on, sanitiser in pocket and guard up, I viewed this once familiar world with suspicion and excitement. This was my explorer’s mindset, as I got ready to find out what had changed. Fortified with antibodies but unprepared for the anti-social environment, my journey of rediscovery began.
Gone was the serendipitous stop over at a store that beckoned. Gone was the simple chit chat with a passer-by. Gone was the leisurely coffee or tea break between meetings. As I went about my work, I realised my outings were absolutely task focussed.
On making my re-entry into the real world I sense an anti-social network emerging. Lifts are a torture. I hold my breath as more and more people pile in. The waiting game to see if someone else will press the lift button. The relief when people exit and I have “my space” again.
The anti-social world put up its barriers when I was tempted to strike up a conversation with someone standing 6 feet away. The distance yawned between us. Our eyes connected for a minute, I could have offered a comforting word as we both waited in silence outside the CT Scan room, lost in our own thoughts. Will I be intruding? Is it worth the risk? The moment passes. The anti-social network at work again. The lost art of the unplanned conversation which can lead to so many serendipitous discoveries seemed to stare at me wherever I went.
Anger. My anger reared its ugly head as well. Someone had parked their car in a no parking area blocking my exit. I got into a yelling match with the driver of the vehicle when he arrived un-remorseful and arrogant. As if it was his right to park where he pleased and I was being unreasonable for complaining. I have worked hard to hold my anger in check. To be mindful and find a better way to engage with such situations. I found myself unable to draw on that reserve. The anti-social me was on full display. Another reminder to me, that the real world seems to have become an anti-social network of people. Me included. This was not a me I liked or recognised.
In contrast while the masks are on (or is that just my wishful thinking) in the real world and barriers are up, I sense a difference online. As much as there is zoom fatigue, there is also willingness to connect and to engage. To help and to share. In the year gone by I have made new connections, explored new spaces and found a few new friends online.
I would never have imagined that a small group of Coaches could find a way to link up courtesy LinkedIn and a year later proudly say that we created a volunteer-based organisation (www.coachesforyou.in), offering pro-bono coaching conversations that support our world. The camaraderie and sense of community that I felt within this group was truly amazing.
Maybe the absence of unplanned social engagement in the real world is opening people up to being more available online. Every time I have reached out for help or a conversation, I have found answers and new connections.
Ironically, much has been said about the anti-social behaviour of people online. I see another parallel social universe where people care and share online. I do hope the real world will offer me that experience soon, but till then I will take what I can get, where I can get it. My heartfelt gratitude to all the lovely people who I have had the pleasure of connecting with, you know who you are. I say three cheers to the power of online social networks.
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