Granted, I’m biased since my dissertation focused on online communication, specifically video used in Christian community — but there’s one lesson I wish we would have learned during the pandemic:
Online communication is not perfect, just as in-person communication is not perfect — yet neither form “replaces” the other; instead, they complement one another.
With most people “down talking” online school, Zoom, Hangouts, and the like, we forget that the pandemic would have been far worse without online communication — not only in terms of human life but quality of life. (Imagine being stuck at home in 1996 with AOL and 28k modems!)
It’s a reminder that in the midst of any challenging circumstance, look for the bright spots. Even imperfect opportunities offer opportunity. So in the context of communication, whatever medium we use, we should not disregard that medium but maximize the medium.
For me, I connected more with high school and college friends, who I hadn’t talked to in years — and when our family struggled with the recurrence of cancer, I heard from distant acquaintances, far-off relatives, and even strangers. I also connected with dozens of my pastor friends by visiting their church online, which I wouldn’t have done before the pandemic. In fact, I received most of my encouragement through digital mediums, and if I were a “case study,” such communication rescued me from despair.
No form of communication—whether it be telegraph, radio, public speaking, conversation, television, social media, VR, or anything else—is an end in itself. We have been given all of these tools to foster rich, holistic understanding with one another, and with the complexity of human interaction, we benefit from all of them — so rather than rejecting any single form, may we see them as complementing one another.