Zoom Your Mum

The other day I wrote a short story about a walk home from a bus stop. It was based on “Memory”, the familiar song from the musical “Cats” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The idea was to convey the feeling of loneliness and aloneness that each of us sometimes feel. Sometimes the feeling creeps on you during a rainy day when you cannot go around as per normal, sometimes it is there when you turn off the lights in the evening, getting ready to sleep. For me, the moment of loneliness hit hard back in 2004 when I was living in the UK, and some of my flatmates had resigned and were ready to go back home.

I still remember the day. One of my flatmates with whom we had shared the apartment for a year had earlier gotten a job from Aero, a Finnish regional airline and had accepted it. And as is usual in the UK, the day was rainy and grey, and it was our day off. Then another of my three flatmates got down from his room and told that he had been accepted to work for MyTravel Airlines back in Helsinki and would be starting there in a month’s time. Also, my mum called and told some news from the family back in Finland, which had made me just a bit homesick. And all these events culminated in that one day when I really felt miserable, and missed my family, and friends back in Finland. Mind you, it was the time before WhatsApp and video calls and such. We didn’t even have a TV or Internet at home. The only internet available was at an Internet Cafe in the middle of the village. And it cost like £1 / 15 minutes. Speed was good for checking your email, nothing more.

Fast forward to 2023 when the world is more interconnected and smaller when it comes to communicating with your family, who can live in any of the four corners of the Earth. I am Finnish, who lives partially in Spain with my Malaysian wifey, whose siblings live in Malaysia and the US. We have WhatsApp, Teams, Zoom, voice messages, video calls, instant messages, and so on.

But are we still disconnected?

Back in the 1980s and 1990s we didn’t have all this technology, which meant we had to be somewhere at any given time and our parents were quite keen on having us back home at certain times for dinners and such. We used to visit our grandparents physically, instead of just calling them with a tablet. We wrote letters, actual letters, to people, and photos were more than just for Instagram to garner likes from people we don’t even know.

And if you go even further back in time, you’d have to send a letter that would take weeks to arrive to other countries, and then wait weeks for their reply. No international phone calls, no 900 km/h flights from one continent to another. In many cases, if you left your country, you left it for good, never to see it again. Or maybe once, if you were lucky.

We often consider the younger generations to be more sociable than the elderly. And this was the case even back in the early part of the 2010s. Surprisingly, however, in 2015, the BBC’s Loneliness Project found out that the loneliness in young people matched that of the elderly – or even surpassed it. Since then the Covid-19 pandemic has just enhanced this due to lockdowns in different countries and the need for social distancing.

This modern loneliness has an effect on school kids moving to work life, but not just that. Yes, loneliness has an effect on the grades at school, and the quality of work you can produce, but it is not all. And it shouldn’t be all there is.

The need for the human connection is not about school and work. It is about our basic need to survive. The need to not feel alone. All of us crave for the human connection and if we are deprived of that for a long time, it can actually have physical side effects. I know from my circle of friends one middle-aged man who got a heart attack because of the social deprivation during the lockdown.

Touch someone!

Whilst writing this I am sitting at home and stealing some glances at my wifey, whilst listening to Portuguese fado songs. It is Friday evening, and I am just glad we are together in the same place at the same time. I miss my parents back in Finland, but it is not overpowering, like that day back in 2004. So yes, video calls and EU-wide roaming ban helps. A lot.

These modern technological advances in communication technology are helpful, but in my opinion they can not replace the face-to-face moments with your loved ones. Luckily, the world has indeed gotten smaller and travelling from a country to another can be done relatively easy.

But we humans are built to conquer adversities. We have managed even if we had to move to the other end of the world whilst travelling there by a ship to create a family with people we didn’t know. During the most recent pandemic, we created hug sheets so we could feel the touch of our loved ones. We created programs like Skype to be able to affordably connect with our mums who lived in different countries.

But we can not survive without each other. Remember that.

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