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The virtual world of social media has allowed humans to evolve in ways never seen before. During the recent pandemic, people were able to remain connected despite lockdowns, and were able to keep isolation at bay. Companies shifted to serve their clients online. For many whose work could transition online, the transition was seamless. Or was it? To address this question, I’d like to speak about how my experience and the experience of my trade colleagues were different. As a furniture maker with the House of Commons, when the pandemic hit, I had to continue working onsite. This was very challenging at the time, but I was able to maintain some degree of normalcy despite a higher level of stress due to the ever-changing health requirements I had to navigate. However, looking back at it, the situation forced me to be resilient, that is “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions” (https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/).
Now that the pandemic finds itself behind us, I’ve been able to return to my in-person baseline while still enjoying the benefits of social media as a tool that augments my social experience. However, I would propose that this is not the case for all workers, especially those that were forced to integrate fully into the virtual world for their work survival. Although their adaptation was initially touted as cutting-edge and successful as they were able to continue their employment despite the shutdowns, there has since been the development of an emerging psychological phenomena among this group described as discontinuation syndrome. My wife, Linda Rombough, who is a private practioner of psychotherapy, has shared that herself and many of her colleagues have been observing this ever-increasing issue. That is, as individuals have integrated themselves more and more online within social media, their brain’s neural pathways have reorganized themselves in such a way that has lowered their tolerance of physical effort. Making it difficult for some to re-integrate into the balance between the physical and virtual community. So, for instance, if you want to meet with friends in a virtual community, your there with a few clicks of the mouse, whereas in the physical get-togethers one has to put forward effort to dress, go outside and endure the elements, commute and once arrived, engage in small talk, etc. Anecdotally, among these individuals, practioners have observed that this has resulted in an overall loss of joy for engaging in the real world, and thus a physical sense of isolation and disconnection. This has opened an area for further research to be done.
However, in the meantime, the thought that I’d like to put forward is, as we move forward into the virtual world, I feel that it will be more and more important to ensure that social media remains a tool that augments rather than defines us in order to maintain our balance as healthy physical beings. And it will be important going forward that the social media platforms within the virtual world remain human-centric by walking the fine line of promoting resilience so that we can endure hardship versus making us vulnerable.
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