What I Did When Connecting Stopped Being Fun

When I started sending my mostly monthly “Getting Connected” email newsletters – 6 years ago – I did it with the intention that I wanted to help people get better connected whether online or IRL (in real life). That is still my mission now more than ever – but it’s getting tricky – as we head into the seventh month of pandemic life. 

My extroverted “connecting” heart is tired, frustrated, sad, challenged and weary. The online experience feels like we are all turning into overwhelmed zombies. Opportunities to keep us connected have been turned entirely upside down. I’ve tried or experienced most of them. It’s just not the same. Bear with me as a I share are a few gripes:

Conferences and meetings: With virtual conferences and events, you can easily skip the keynotes or speeches, which I do. It will be recorded. I can always catch the replay. I never do. And if do – the speaker is typically recorded, and then perhaps live for a Q&A. It’s not the same as being in the same room with Brene Brown or Michelle Obama (thank you Inbound 2017!) even if it was with 10K other people. We were all together – there was energy, there was connection!

My favorite reason to go to conferences was to meet people, and experience unexpected, serendipitous opportunities for connection. It doesn’t really happen. You don’t “bump” into people online.

Networking events: You never know who you might meet, but the awkwardness of social distancing and meeting in masks makes it really difficult to have meaningful conversations. And truth be told, who is up for networking in real life with strangers as Covid cases are starting to spike again?

Live music: Don’t get me started on the loss of live music – be still my soul! Talk about energy and connecting with strangers. And the singing at the top of my lungs with strangers?!?! Can’t do that when we’re 12 feet apart. My heart also hurts for the musicians, many of them thrive and even survive from their concerts and live performances. Live streaming via a flat screen just isn’t the same for the artist or the audience. 

Yes, I’ll acknowledge that this new virtual world has opened up possibilities and connections that the trappings of in-person meetings could never offer. And yes, there’s no travel or commute time. And yes, a pared down wardrobe (no heels for months) is lovely. I’m still really focused on and missing authentic human connections, not these other silver linings. But wait . . .

There’s Hope

As much as I just want to bury my head and say “call me when this is all over” I have been trying to stay positive and focus on being creative – even when it feels hard. I also started looking for answers from people and experts who focus on this kind of work all day – and recently spent some time in group meetings with them. 

These inspiring folks are looking on the bright side and seeking the positives in our new world and continue to think of creative and inclusive ways to keep us connected: 

The ever sage Seth Godin had this recent podcast focusing on the Zoom Revolution, looking farther into the future with anticipation of all of the good that could come from our warp-speed leap into virtual communications.

Author of The Art of the Gathering, Priya Parker has been ruminating and pontificating since March about how we gather differently. She even started a podcast called “Together Apart” and has been working with like-minded folks to keep us focused on authentic ways to gather. 

Which led me to discover Misha Glouberman writer of “How to Host a Cocktail Party on Zoom (and have better classes, conferences and meetings, too)” who co-hosted with Priya a “gathering of the gathers” to try and test out new technologies on Zoom as well as crowd source some creative ideas to make virtual gathering more meaningful. 

Then I found a wonderful community workshop hosted by innovator, creator, and author Monica Kang called “Building Safe Space Online” where again a group of collaborative community builders focused on and shared best practices and resources for better online events and meetings – as well as some self care reminders for those that are trying to creatively lead and create in these times. 

Lastly, I will continue to shout out and celebrate Molly Beck and Carly Valancy for creating Reach Out parties (based upon Molly’s book, Reach Out). These daily virtual gatherings have created a growing group that is exponentially creating connections and community and is making magical things happen. 

I’ve turned a corner. I’ve found hope. I’ve met and connected with like-minded people who are as worried as I am about how we stay connected. I’m accepting that it takes more work, creative thinking, logistics, and planning than it ever did before. But I’m comforted to know there are others – many others – who are out there who are thinking about how we can do this better than before. 

I’m getting recharged as we head into the holidays and a new year. Finding creative new ways (and new traditions) will be a challenge but I’m up for it. Are you? 

And if you are experiencing some of these same “gathering” and “connecting” frustrations, I’d love to hear from you and see how I can help or we can work together.