2 The COVID Connection
To families, though they may have made us want to tear our hair out during this past quarantine, we wouldn’t be here and gotten through all of that without them. Whether your family is by blood and by choice, we hope that you will always stay connected no matter what challenges you continue to endure (crossing our fingers that a GLOBAL PANDEMIC is the biggest challenge we have to overcome). If 2020 couldn’t break us, that means we were all pretty special to each other. May our connections only grow as we transition back to normal life.
Keywords: Friendship, Communication, Comradery, Love, Global Community
My world, and probably yours, came crashing down in March of 2020. I looked around and felt I lost everything. All of us were left stranded in our homes with nothing to do but sit around and hope that things got better. It appeared that we were all more alone and disconnected than ever. But were we? During COVID the world recognized the importance of making and fostering connections. Despite all the changes to our environment, we adapted. Changing not only how we connect, but how we maintain connections with people across the world. We are all even connected through the common loss of in-person connection because of COVID. Though it seemed the ability to make connections was gone, it didn’t disappear, it just changed.
I believe that human beings are adaptable creatures and when it comes to making and fostering connections, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can adapt to maintain this necessary concept. Throughout this chapter I discuss different aspects of relational communication that we used to adapt connections during COVID, then I will outline three real- life artifacts.
Relational communication can help explain why we were able to adapt connections to this new forum. Arguably, the amount of common shared experience, caring, and concern was at a level that we have not seen before the pandemic and that is one way we naturally adapted to this change. First, there are three types of closeness in relationships: physical closeness, emotional closeness, and relational closeness (Guerrero 264). Since COVID took away physical closeness from this equation of connection building, emotional and relational closeness compensated for this loss. The foundation for emotional closeness is a sense of shared experience, concern, and caring (Guerrero 264). COVID gave us all a new shared experience, a common ground/struggle that we all experienced at the same time. This helped fast track emotional connection because this common ground made concepts like self-disclosure and vulnerability, which helps strengthen connections, a lot easier (Guerrero 227). Within the pandemic, the concern and caring for those around us was at an all-time high because of this shared struggle and the sense of a community obligation to protect one another from this virus. Next, an important factor of relational closeness is an “exchange of resources” (Guerrero 264). Throughout COVID there was an overwhelming amount of information exchanged via texting or social media platforms, whether this was scientific information or inspirational human interest stories. This constant exchange of information through online forums was a way for everyone to continue to grow together to get through this time. Though some feel that the overwhelming increase in screen time over quarantine was negative, this provided a positive in the form of maintaining connections.
Throughout the pandemic, there was an overwhelming amount of people who shared how they adapted and continued to stay connected (some could even say this was just another way to form broader world community connections as well). First, the personal aspect of the medical field adapted and allowed people to continue their treatment in a time where medical care was limited. Indu Subramanian published an article discussing how virtual Parkinson’s Disease Support Groups helped maintain connection in this time where people could not come together. With Parkinson’s Disease (PD), a big part of their treatment comes from lifestyle/wellness changes like physical therapy, daily exercise, group classes, and support groups (Subramanian 1). Social distancing caused the resources that people with PD depended on to disappear. But they found that shifting to virtual support groups could help simulate the same connection that they once experienced in person. These group sessions are even archived on YouTube so patients can go back at any time they need throughout their time in isolation (Subramanian 1). As a whole they adjusted their normal experiences to this new way of life.
Next, when it comes to fostering a familial connection throughout COVID, Ruth Faleolo shared her family’s shift on how they maintained connections, how it helped bring them closer together, and how the pandemic helped connect older generations to the younger generations like never before. In her article, she writes, “I have found it mind-boggling to see the many virtual groups that have grown out of necessity in these times. It is inevitable that this online presence and connectivity will continue to accelerate and adapt creatively in the months ahead as people respond to the ‘new normal,’” (Faleolo 132). Beyond this, older generations who were not on social media platforms or not tech-savvy adapted (Faleolo 132-133). The connections their community built and how they integrated their culture through these forums provide an amazing example of how an older generation and culture can adapt to keep their community alive.
Finally, perhaps the most moving example is one that showed not only how human beings adapted but how quickly they could in order to keep that sense of community. The New York Times created such a moving online piece called “What N.Y.C. Sounds Like Every Night at 7.” This audiovisual piece by Andy Newman incorporates footage of people cheering from their apartments in New York coupled with quotes about what is going on within them. They published this piece on April 10, 2020, a little over a month after the pandemic hit the United States. This wonderful human display provides a tangible example of how New York maintained a sense of community throughout the pandemic. This is an example of not just a close connection but a broader connection and sense of global community pride that this horrible shift in life gifted us. This artifact displays that like no other.
COVID-19 possibly deteriorated connections between family members. The concept of proximity and distance in Guerrero’s text makes an interesting observation concerning adult relationships and how physical distance can serve as a turning point because this is when parents realize that their kids are grown up (Guerrero 206). This shift back to the home for an extended period could decrease the progress in a connection between parents and their children because it creates a shift back to thinking of their children as not “adults.” I definitely saw this shift in my home life. When I went back to in person college, it was almost like I was a freshman again and my mom definitely was a little more overly involved than she had been going into my sophomore year. As the year started, we were able to shift back to that young adult-parent relationship, but the effect was definitely there.
Proximity, as a general term, is also crucial for making connections. We are more likely to make connections to those that live or work close to us (Guerrero 137-8). With COVID, this proximity was increased for many people which hindered our ability to make connections with people, especially when our proximity was limited to just those within our household. We can see the change in proximity could also help with fostering these connections. In a study discussed in an article about online dating by the BBC they discuss that since most of the communication was done purely online for so long, it made in person dates more precious and those relationships more important (Cox).
I believe that human beings are adaptable creatures and when it comes to making and fostering connections, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can adapt to maintain this necessary concept.
Human beings are perhaps the most durable creatures on this planet. We have overcome war, famine, disease, and most other challenges throughout our history. This pandemic was no different. Despite this change, we have not lost every part of what keeps us connected, and if anything COVID may have made them stronger. When it comes to physical closeness people often think about “rushing home to someone.” (Guerrero 265). This quote has a personal connection for me. I wrote an article during the pandemic about how Wake students adapted to the change and within this article one of my sources, Tony Calderon, said, “This time really made me realize the people, my unconditional best friends, that I want to rush back to,” (Borsellino). This shows that though this physical connection was put on pause, it is not completely gone from our minds. We may never go back to being completely the same, but the things that are necessary to our human survival, like connection, will always endure through tough times.
Borsellino, Madison. “Who Matters Most? Reflections on Friends and Family as Anchors During COVID-19.” Pulitzer Center, 22 Sept. 2020, pulitzercenter.org/stories/who-matters- most-reflections-friends-and-family-anchors-during-covid-19.
Cox, David. “Coronavirus: Why Dating Feels so Different Now.” BBC Worklife, BBC, 24 Nov. 2020, www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20201116-how-the-pandemic-has-changed-our- romantic-relationships.
Faleolo, Ruth (Lute). “Tongan Collective Mobilities: Familial Intergenerational Connections Before, During, and Post COVID-19.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 16 Dec. 2020, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ocea.5277.
Newman, Andy. “What N.Y.C. Sounds Like Every Night at 7.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Apr. 2020, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/10/nyregion/nyc-7pm- cheer-thank-you-coronavirus.html.
Subramanian, Indu. “Virtual Parkinson’s Disease Support Groups in the COVID-19 Era: Social Connection in the Time of Social Distancing.” International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 10 July 2020, movementdisorders.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/mdc3.12994.