Last week, when I took my dog out for her first walk of the day, I saw a flamingo on my lawn. It was a small, pink, plastic flamingo with a laminated yellow note around its neck that in kids’ handwriting read, “Thinking of you.” It made me pause and smile. As I continued up the block, I saw another. Then another. Each one displaying a different note of support: “Be well”, “Miss you”, “Take care of yourself.” I couldn’t tell which of my neighbors had pulled this off but “Wow!” I thought, “How lucky are we to live in such a wonderful community!”
I love technology and am as much a user of social media as anyone – of my age, anyway. Over the last decade, however, anxiety and depression have been on the rise, particularly among young people. Social media brought with it a new societal norm of always-on, false realities and images of lives too good to be true. Connection became associated with friending, Linking-in, and following the Insta-famous. It became so easy to compare lives and so hard to keep up, to feel left out or worse, inferior. Relationships were conducted online and, one might argue, real social distancing began long ago.
And now, here we are, in the middle of the worst crisis many of us will ever see in our lives. It’s an un-chartered territory of rising death tolls, insufficient supplies and stay-at-home orders. It is a war none of us ever imagined, and yet, at a time of such unrelenting bad news, when we are required to self-isolate, I find connection, community, inspiration — and even humor — almost everywhere I look.
In my home, as in many others, we are leveraging technologies like Zoom not just for meetings, but to connect with friends and family. For both my husband and me, weekly phone calls with our parents have turned into daily “Facetimes.” Both of us are video chatting with siblings, that before, we didn’t regularly speak with, and with good friends we hadn’t seen in over a year. And of course, we are known to partake in a virtual happy hour, quarantini in hand, now and then, as well.
Social media is proving its worth by showcasing videos from communities all over the world sharing their support for front-line workers, coming together to sing or dance, or just sharing small bits of humor and humanity. It is providing a platform for musicians and performers to do what they do and for us to enjoy it. Most importantly, social media is now providing a much-needed lifeline to my children, enabling them to connect in new ways with the friends they can no longer see on a daily basis.
Although we are under a stay-at-home order, not all connection is online. We are taking walks like we never have before. This weekend some families on our block, put on an “Art Walk” for the neighborhood, displaying along the sidewalk the paintings, drawings and projects their kids had been working on for the last couple of weeks in isolation. Beyond our street, in our town and others, neighborhoods have Bear Hunts in which houses display Teddy bears in their windows, on their porches, in the trees, for kids to count as they walk by. Neighbors are helping neighbors with shopping and supplies and in any other way they can.
People all over the world are looking outward, instead of down at their screens. From the Brooklyn DJ taking requests shouted out to him from neighboring windows, to the people in Italy singing in unison from their balconies, to flamingos on the front lawns of a Pasadena street, people are reaching out to connect to one another and spread a bit of hope and joy in the process. It’s the silver lining – and for me, it’s working.