As we enter one of the most unprecedented times in not just American history, but the history of the entire world, we begin to learn so much about ourselves and how we handle stressful situations. One of the first things I noticed when everyone started sitting at home rather than going out places is that for some reason my pull to interact with friends grew beyond what it was when I could see anyone I wanted.
Of course, I think this might be easy to explain. We always want that which we can’t have, and now suddenly when I can’t go out to a bar with my buddies, it’s all I want to do makes sense. I do think, however, that it is important to look at this from an even bigger perspective and higher vantage point. Why is it that it took disconnecting myself from my friends to feel the connection so much stronger? I have a theory that applies to much more than social interaction.
When you are at home and you are constantly surrounded by everything you own, you never consider the benefits of each thing individually. Your WiFi is always there and always functioning, your television is available to stream whatever your heart desires. Your refrigerator is hopefully stocked with anything you’d like to eat, and your bed is prime for a nice nap if you need it… but what happens when all of those things go away?
Put yourself in that situation. You wouldn’t miss all of it at once, you would miss each item individually as you came across the need. If you were stranded in a forest with no cell service, you wouldn’t crave your television, you would probably crave some sort of WiFi hub that could get you a signal anywhere so you could call for help. Eventually you would crave your bed for comfort and fridge for food. Your needs would dictate what you miss and what you want.
I think this is a similar thing that is happening to us now. Most people are missing social interaction because we are still surrounded by all of our comforts in our home. We don’t miss our WiFi or our refrigerator, we miss seeing people and going to concerts and bars. Much has been stripped from us in an effort to stop the spread of this virus, and now we are starting our process of missing things one by one. Social interaction is just first, because we have the need for it.
Of course, I don’t think I’ve just rediscovered America for you, I’ve just told you what you probably already know, but think beyond that. What is the next need that you will notice? Is it the need to feel fulfilled as a contributor to society? Many people have lost their jobs and while for now it is nice to sit back and fill your time with Tiger King and whatever else you can get your hands on, the more complex needs will start showing up sooner… and we don’t have Zoom conferencing for fulfillment. Psychologically speaking, I predict things will get more and more difficult, even as we reopen the country.
All of this to say, maybe it’s worth sitting down and identifying some of these needs before they come so that you can start to tackle them before they really become a problem. Address your life in pieces, take note of the details, and keep yourself healthy.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.