Dear Zaria: how do we stay connected in an age of social isolation?

Dear Zaria: how do we stay connected in an age of social isolation?

Most of my climate activism work is meeting with people through a screen or via email. There are some climate friends I've never seen in person. I have close relationships with some of them, but I miss the hugs and direct connections. Sometimes I linger at the end of a Zoom meeting if the host doesn't immediately close the room — It's a way of simulating the parking lot (or bike rack) conversation after a meeting when we resolve differences, break through conventional thinking and deepen relationships. Should we push to break the habit of social isolation so we can be more effective?

Dear Readers,

After a few weeks of much-needed rest, I am back. How are you, really?

We’re slowly but surely creeping up to a new year. Are you someone who welcomes 2023 with anxiety, or joy? Perhaps, in this climate (and global economy), both.

I encourage you to reflect on the past year and think about all the moments of laughter, pain, sorrow, and excitement you might’ve felt.

No matter where you are, and what you’re doing, I celebrate you — for making it through another year, for still being a loving community member, for still caring about an environment that constantly takes care of us, regardless of how much we may abuse and exploit it, through our human activities.

Now, to answer the question.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has surely taken a hit on all of our close relationships and the way we meet, and interact with each other.

I admire that, even during these uncomfortable times, you’re still finding small ways to connect — lingering at the end of a call, looking for moments of genuine connection, even if through a screen.

You are already highlighting how resilient we humans can be, and how intimacy can be achieved through even the smallest of ways.

For the sake of protecting our immune-compromised communities, it’s safe to say that some forms of social isolation are unavoidable: face masks in public, respecting social distancing rules.

However, as you said, this does not mean that there aren’t ways we can still find community, and effective organizing methods around climate change, amid these dynamics.

First, we must ask ourselves, what do we need from other people, or within the climate community, specifically, that we feel is currently being stifled: What is it about organizing in person that feels so radically different and transformative from a screen?

Could we see each other more deeply? Do we desire more deep closeness? Do we feel like conversations have become surface level, as we’re all pushed deeper into our own lives, via unconscious social isolation, as you’ve said?

I like to think that we can, as climate people, find ways to see one another deeply and connect meaningfully, albeit two-dimensionally.

  1. Before a call, call the awareness back into your own body so that you can be as present as possible.
  2. Encourage your colleagues, family members, or friends, to take the first ten minutes of the call for a radically honest check-in.
  3. Partake in a shared activity, through the screen, that allows everyone to feel a part of a collective, a moment of community joy.
  4. Push yourself to meet up with small groups of people, outside, in a mutually decided and supportive environment, to break up some of the monotony of technology.

Remember that we are all interconnected and in this together, so, we can never, truly, be too far apart from one another, as we’re all experiencing the same thing, that is life and witnessing a changing environment.

Allow this affirmation to remind you of all of our closeness, even when it feels like we are far apart.