Zooming, slacking, and being human in the time of COVID

Barney Zwartz on all the inventive opportunities to stay connected during this pandemic, and what this says about the spirit of humanity.

As a man who, in my 60s, could fairly be said to be approaching the glimmering of the dawning of the foothills of early middle age, I am not much given to zooming about. Slack, a social media platform I have yet to explore, sounds much more my style.

Yet, like millions of Australians, I have become quite familiar with Zoom, the video conferencing app that allows several people at once to join virtual meetings. Two employers use it, and now my far-flung family is getting together regularly.

It’s quite entertaining, though we haven’t totally mastered the art of not all speaking at once, and toddlers can often dominate by generating the largest noise. When one grandson in particular hits the high decibels I suspect his uncle in Leeds (Yorkshire) can hear him unaided by technology.

Two recent catch-ups have featured a brilliant 44-question quiz, prepared by my son’s partner in Leeds. For example, where is there a small colony of Welsh expatriates: rural NSW, Patagonia, the Swiss Alps or Kazakhstan? Or which Shakespearean play features Cordelia: King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet or Julius Caesar?

I smugly got both right (Patagonia, King Lear), without admitting the first was merely an educated guess. That’s not how our family rolls; instead, trash talk rules.

I share this not to show how clever I think I am (or not only), but to show what sort of inventive opportunities there are to keep families and friends together during the pandemic purgatory. There have been clever videos, virtual coffee or cocktail parties, book clubs – the varieties are virtually limitless (see what I did there?).

It says something wonderful about the irrepressible spirit of human beings, made in the image of God.