Note: Originally written April 20, 2020
When I was a kid back in the 70’s my grandpa used to call on the phone and say that he could see me. He said he had a video phone that could see the people on the other end. “No you don’t! There’s no such thing!” I would always say. He would continue to insist he could see me for awhile before finally confessing the truth. “One day there will be video phones though, you’ll see” he would say every time. He truly believed that. I always think about him now and what a shame it is he didn’t live to see their invention. He would have loved being right during this covid digital boom.
“Jane his wife…”
If you are Gen X like me then you probably remember The Jetsons. It was like The Flintstones but set in the future instead of prehistoric times. My favorite episode was the one where Jane had plans to be on video chat with three of her friends. She had just woken up and her hair and makeup were a mess. Not having time to get video-ready she picked up a mask of her own face and held it up to the camera as she chatted to her friends. As the conversation goes on, the cartoon switches to the perspective of the other women and you can see that all three of them are holding up masks of their own faces as well. So much for an actual video call!
I must have been about 8 years old when I caught that episode but it stuck with me throughout all of these years. Now it strikes me as funny that my grandpa’s prophecy would come true only to have people not really want it.
A couple of decades later I admit it took me awhile to adapt to what is actually an amazing invention. Why? Because it meant I had to brush my hair and put makeup on during a time when I was sitting around my house. What’s next? Having to wear a bra under my floppy sweatshirt?
I’ve been working from home quite a bit for the past several years now and more and more companies have embraced the video chat. Many of us are guilty of turning off our cameras and using a picture of ourselves as our identifier. Every time I see a picture of a colleague with lights flashing around it as they speak I think of my grandfather and of Jane Jetson.
Cut to now and this Covid-19 lockdown. Apart from a quick trip to the grocery store or a 45 minute walk for exercise I, along with the rest of you, don’t leave home. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, for the most part, enjoying the time on my couch; enjoying wearing comfy, floppy, mismatched clothing without underwear all day every day. I have my two cats and my husband (when we are not annoying each other.) I’m also lucky enough to have my work as a web designer & digital marketer. It’s just as busy as ever even during a pandemic. Maybe even moreso. I could probably get by.
But we are really social creatures aren’t we? So now I find myself very glad that my grandfather’s wish came true. Coronavirus has forced us all to move faster in getting to a point we would have eventually gotten to anyway. Camera adding ten pounds and showing all my imperfections be damned! Now i’m leaving the camera option on and chatting face to face. Sometimes even with work colleagues (and isn’t it fun to see how Tom from accounting decorated his living room?)
Meet Me at the Pub
Instead of making plans to meet friends at the pub, I make plans to sit on my couch and chat with friends and family. I brush my hair and pair my sweatpants with a cute top. Sometimes I even wear a little bit of makeup. Technology has grown exponentially since the 70’s. We went from rotary phones attached to a wall to tiny portable phones attached to the palms of our hands. Now with the advent of FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom and even Facebook video it really feels like my loved ones are in the same room with me. I drink coffee and wine with my girlfriends in three different time zones. My husband plays tandem video games with his daughter who is quarantined with her mother outside of the city. Even my parents have learned how to use Facetime on an iPad.
The Only True Constant is Change
We started on the farms, migrated to the factories during the industrial revolution and now, if you are smart, you are migrating to digital. This pandemic is forcing business of all sizes from the little guys to large corporations to adapt or die. But what a time to adapt! We’ve all had to get creative, innovative even, to solve every day problems that have sprung up during our forced sequester. If you have been living in denial and have never used Amazon before you sure are now. Online shopping is here to stay. Restaurant delivery services, a long-time staple in my home, are signing up more restaurants than ever. Going digital is likely the only way some businesses will stay afloat.
While my grandfather couldn’t have predicted a covid digital boom, he certainly predicted a bit of the future. Not only am I doing Zoom parties with groups of friends on Saturday nights but we are playing Cards Against Humanity and trivia games with apps that have launched or become popular because of this pandemic. We are watching movies with apps that show the movie in several locations and provide video chat so we can all comment as if we were in the same room. Kids are in virtual classrooms. My niece just got in trouble for falling asleep at her computer during a math class! (Yes she somehow received quite a large helping of my DNA.)
Every day something new is being introduced to solve the problems that arise in general and even more so from this pandemic. Every day that opens up new opportunities. Now is the time to go digital.