The power of human connection

Human connection. It’s probably not something we think about as part of our usual daily lives. We have our families, friends, colleagues, neighbours, people we chat to when we’re in the gym (or in the pub).

Most of the time, we wouldn’t necessarily consider these interactions as human connection.

They’re just our families, our mates. We chat, we hug, we do things and we do nothing, together. We don’t even really think about it much. That’s just life, isn’t it?

But with the arrival of COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown, the need for human connection has, certainly for me, been brought into very sharp focus.

Suddenly, the ability to spend time with other people has been taken away. Lives literally depend on us keeping our distance.

Lockdown has been incredibly difficult for many people, myself included. As I write this, we don’t know when or how the restrictions will be lifted. We don’t know when, or even if, life will return to the way it was before the pandemic.

The phrase “the new normal” is being bandied around and quite frankly, it’s terrifying.

A new community

But this is our normal for now, and I’ve found it really interesting to see how people from across the globe have responded.

Sometimes it’s heart-warming, other times it’s rage-inducing, but the fact that we feel strongly either way about the actions of people who are so far away from us speaks volumes.

We’re now focussing a lot of our attention on other countries, watching how they deal with the crisis and sharing videos of people in Italy singing from their balconies or a Dutch train conductor pretending to do the job from his driveway, complete with blowing his whistle.

Does that mean that perhaps there’s been a shift in what we think of as our community? That it’s more about being human than being a certain nationality?

Making different connections

As lockdown continues and, for many people, loneliness increases, we’re looking for different ways to connect.

It seems that everyone is doing online quizzes, and we’re all Zooming, Facetiming and Housepartying far more than we thought possible.

Bands and musicians are doing online gigs, there are virtual comedy nights and dance lessons and fitness classes. There is even virtual speed dating… but don’t ask me how I know about that.

We’re clapping on our doorsteps to thank our keyworkers, people are dressing up as superheroes for their daily walk to make children smile, we’re checking on our neighbours, we’re writing letters and we’re making plans for “when all this is over”.

This shift in the way we’re communicating with those we love shows how important human connection really is to us.

Despite our many differences, the need to be part of a tribe is, and always has been, ingrained in us as human beings.

Communicating differently

Clearly the way we communicate with each other has adapted to the circumstances. But how about the way businesses are communicating with us?

Beyond the emails coming out during the first few weeks of lockdown, when it seemed like every shop you’ve ever entered in your life wanted to tell you that they were following Government guidelines and that the safety of their staff and customers was their priority, it’s been interesting to see how the messaging has evolved.

To me, it feels as though brands and businesses are becoming warmer in their tone, engaging with us as people rather than just consumers, becoming less formal and showing us their human side, too.

It will be really interesting to see how this continues as the situation develops. Personally, I would love this to become the norm rather than returning to more formal or faceless communications. It would be a real shame to break those newly formed connections that are so valued.

What can we learn?

Looking on the bright side of lockdown life, I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve started to think differently about things.

I am someone who has always valued my own space. I love some time alone to sing badly at the top of my lungs, or read a book, or watch some really trashy TV. However, this experience has taken it to the extreme and has been really hard.

But through the harder times I’ve learnt that gratitude and actively looking for positives can be helpful not only to lift my mood in the moment, but to re-frame my outlook on life.

Those friends and family I’m missing so much? I am lucky to have them in my life and I will never take them for granted again.

That empty feeling when I’d give anything for some time (and a glass of wine) with my best friends or a daft game with my nieces and nephews? I know that I’ll have those times again.

For many people who can’t go out or have no family, this loneliness is their regular life. I can’t imagine having no end point to look forward to after this, and I will be looking for ways I can help those people in the future.

Human connection is vital, and now that we’ve been forced to realise that through this scary and surreal experience, I very much hope we will all carry on caring for, respecting and thinking about each other in these new-found ways.

Anna Ross