"What are your thoughts on virtual connection vs in-person?"
Spoiler: I think we need both and I think we need to ask another question.
I like to write an answer to a question once each week, usually on Fridays. The questions come from paid subscribers, who have access to the comments and the chat, and to all of the posts here. Their support allows me to continue this return to writing.
My friend Catherine asked another good one.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Because in recent months, the most consistent and significant connection I get to experience, happens virtually. In a small group that meets weekly, and when I talk to my counselor.
When the conversation ends on Sunday night, I’m not thinking about Zoom. I’m thinking about the eight people I just spent three hours with, the vulnerable moments when someone cried and their honest words were met with presence and compassion. I’m remembering common ground and common threads, the ways we realized that our stories overlap and tie together. I’m smiling at the moments when a comment in the chat turned into shared laughter.
After an hour with my counselor, I’m not thinking about the technology that allowed us to meet. I’m thinking about the conversation, the back-and-forth of questions and answers and ideas. I’m remembering the exchanges where I felt she truly saw and heard me.
It’s not about technology. It’s about connection. Technology simply makes it possible.
Don’t get me wrong. I think most people, myself included, prefer to connect in-person. Whether it’s over a meal or a long walk or simply sitting together, nothing beats being with someone we care about. And how good does it feel when you have a few hours with that person, when the conversation can move from one setting to the next, because you’re both aware that your time together isn’t about entertainment or a destination. The conversation, the being together, is the destination.
I really like Catherine’s question but I wonder if the heart of the matter isn’t a choice between virtual and in-person. If technology can be used to experience real connection, then we don’t have to choose between the two.