Connecting And Reconnecting In The Age Of COVID-19... Just Dial

May 3, 2020

At least anecdotally, it seems that a few months of isolation has triggered a need for human contact. Old friends are connecting after years of being out of touch.  Have you heard from an old friend lately? 

Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I'm living in twilight… ”

“Hey Vince, it's Mitch. Just calling to catch up. How's it going?”

“Oh, Hey Mitch, how are you…..” 

That’s Mitch in Massachusetts. My best friend from high school. We’ve spoken more in the last three months than in the last three years.

“Well, it's a difficult time, but you know, we're hanging in there and it's a great opportunity to connect up with people that I haven't spoken to in a while….”

According to Richard Pond, a Psychology Professor at UNCW, people are reconnecting in big numbers.

“Yeah, I mean, I think when we're experiencing times of stress and sort of we feel very dysphoric, that can make us lonely and that can trigger nostalgia. And really that nostalgia is sort of useful for fostering social connection. So humans have this really fundamental need to have positive relationships. And so I think that in times like this where we're trying to have, you know, sort of, reenergize those intimate connections that we used to have.”

He says while there is an increase in communication platforms like ZOOM and Facebook, folks are also gravitating to an old fashioned phone call.

“And that's because texting isn't really a platform for intimate communication. It sort of deprives your, that intimacy from that relationship. I'm just thinking when I'm texting with a friend, a lot of times texting is good for useful short ‘Hey, how are you doing’ kind of thing. But when we get into a conversation, I might be asked something and then I'm typing my answer and they're there are four more points. And my response that I'm trying to type out doesn't even, it's not relevant anymore. So I just kind of want to be like, okay, let's just talk. So talking on the phone over, over texting allows for more intimate communication.”

Mitch’s wife Judy, who I have known since kindergarten, has been making more calls than usual lately. 

“I agree a hundred percent. I mean, you really have the back and forth of a conversation, and inflection in the voice. I mean, I really, really enjoy the phone call. I don't particularly enjoy FaceTime, but I really, really enjoy the phone call. And it's liberating really. And it's, you know, we're catching up with people that mean a lot to us and I feel like, you know, moving forward, God willing we’ll remember this and bring it with us into the post pandemic era, you know, and not slide back into spending time I picked up.

Both Judy, and UNCW’s Richard Pond, agree that it would be nice if this perceived increase in personal communication stuck around, after life started to return to some sort of normalcy.

“I have a fear that we'll return back to normal, whatever, you know, the normal was pre- quarantine. I think it's really easy to fall back into our old patterns, but it would be nice, I think if, again, just if we could learn to slow down. I think this is a good lesson for us that to slow down, take it easy and, and really, you know, check in with other people, I guess. Really it's good to, if you're a good friend, if you're checking in with your friends to see how they're doing through this, if we can sort of maintain that after the quarantine I think that'd be to our benefit.”

“Eight six seven five three oh nine
Eight six seven five three oh nine” (fade under)

For WHQR News, I’m Vince Winkel