Tag Archives: social distancing

Shrinking social groups

It occurred to me last night that without the real world of middle school, it’s harder for my tween to grow in that very awkward but also useful social world.

Yes, she’s keeping up with her friends in video chats and by texting, but it’s just her group. There are no virtual world opportunities (for my daughter, anyway) to just meet new people or develop new friendships with people she was only acquaintances with.

At school, she would have her friends, but she would also be thrown into circumstances outside of her control. Teachers would assign her to project groups with or without her friends. She would join school activities that interested her where she might meet other kids interested in the same types of activities. She might also just strike up a conversation with someone new at lunch hour.

All these situations are the seeds of new relationships. Nothing may come from any of them, but something may.

And in her new virtual social life, she has only the friends she has made up to this point.

They will become tight friends in some cases, having shared this strange time together. And some friendships will dissolve under the pressure of learning new ways to communicate when body language and transparency are harder to express.

It’s a shrinking social world in some ways. Much good can be found in the technology that we’re using to stay connected in this time of physical distancing. But we have to be prepared for the good to be different from what we’ve ever had before.

Yes, we’ve been connected digitally for years now. But we’ve had the advantage of disconnecting digitally and meeting face-to-face. And I think we need that. But we are entering uncharted waters. There is no disconnecting digitally anymore unless you want to be alone. Nothing wrong with that. But it is true aloneness.

Not so paralyzed after all

It’s probably too early to report any useful data, but the first day of Experiment #2 was successful.

I went for a walk with my kids, grabbed a coffee and some lemon cake from a local espresso bar (shout out to Black Cat Espresso Bar) and walked home in the sunshine.

Feelings before we left the house: worried, panicked, nervous.

Feelings while out walking and while chatting (at a distance) with the barista in the coffee shop: calm, happy, energized.

Feelings once we got home: like I had more energy to concentrate on work; felt more connected to my kids (I think they felt the same for just having shared that special time together); I didn’t feel as guilty when I set them up with their school work and then went back to my own work or when I was explaining how I envisioned the rest of our day (and they weren’t agreeing with my vision).

So Day 1 of that experiment went well.

Days 2 and 3 of Experiment #1: Learn at home were not total losses. Some art was done, a writing assignment was done, some online math and logic games were played. There were lost hours where the kids hunkered down with phones and texted friends or played games purely for entertainment purposes and I’m going to let that go.

I’m newly grateful for my daughter’s very social personality. She has already tired of texting her friends and has started a group call and video call (depending on the group she’s “hanging” with) where they can talk and see each other, and they are playing a game together in this group call. I hear endless laughter emanating from her bedroom and she’s happy to tell me all about their shenanigans when she emerges at dinner time. This talking and laughing with other people is doing good things for her. I’ve made a mental note to relax my screen time rules a bit so that she can keep this connection going.

My son, on the other hand, is not into communication by tech. He’s very social with people in real life, but when I mentioned that another mom is going to get his soccer team together for a video chat, he immediately said it would be boring because none of his friends talk. And I get that. We’re talking about a group of 10-year-old boys. They’re great together on the soccer pitch and they’ll fool around and carry on in person, but over video…not sure how that’ll play out. Anyway, he’s doing that today at some point. He needs social interaction with more than his mom and his sister. He needs other guys. It’s obvious when my husband gets home from work at the end of the day. Our son won’t leave him alone for a minute.

Today, I’m going outside again and the kids are going to start school work in earnest.

Let’s see what that brings, shall we?