Like many things over things taken for granted prior to the pandemic, friendship’s value has risen in our time of crisis. As the crisis worsened, we all missed simple pleasures like the ability to spend times with friends and family. Alone and isolated, we learned of new ways to connect with each other.
In many ways, my life changed less than many of my friends, co-workers, and acquaintances.
I had the good fortune to be able to work from home the majority of the time. My writing and teaching were primarily online. Last spring, I had taken on the additional work of teaching at Washburn University in Topeka, in addition to the classes I had as a student and instructor at UMKC.
After the pandemic struck, those classes migrated to online. Suddenly, my work on these campuses, one of the few social activities I had during the week, evaporated.
When I wasn’t teaching or writing, I found myself playing trivia at local bars and restaurants two or three times a week with a group of friends. These evenings provided another opportunity for social engagement. The occasional gift certificates for our team doing well didn’t hurt either.
I did not appreciate how much I enjoyed and needed to grab a late-night snack with classmates after an evening seminar. While I have taught numerous classes online to students domestic and international, there is an immediacy and energy to having classes with students in a bricks and mortar classroom.
Zoom and FaceTime are wonderful technological tools, both of which I had used prior to the pandemic, though after they became a lifeline to a world we saw slipping away. Instead of being a tool for business or education, Zoom morphed into a platform for social gatherings.
Zoom meetings became Zoom gatherings or Zoom Happy Hours, all safe and socially distanced. Not surprisingly, this led to "Zoom fatigue" as those of us who had spent the better part of our working days online, did not have the energy to interact online even in a social setting.
Aristotle famously said, "Man is a political animal," though not in the modern sense of the world. His observation concerned humanity’s desire to not live in isolation. Instead, we choose to live in cities (polis), we crave connection.
Stories in The New York Times and from CNN noted the immense upsurge in phone calls. In March, Verizon charted 800 million calls during the week, double the average for the business call day of the year — Mother’s Day. Society found comfort in phone calls and those we called were often friends who we might not have spoken to in some time.
My trivia buddies communicated via group text, before a couple of us left the area from work. One of my oldest and dearest friends has started to call me several times a week and I find myself looking forward to these calls.
I continue to join most Zoom Happy Hours and other social occasions, because though it is not the same as meeting in person, there is still much value in these interactions.
As society cautiously moves to more public activities, I relish the opportunities to see friends and family on holidays and other occasions. I hope I remember the value of friendship long after this pandemic has passed.
Nicolas Shump is a longtime educator and writer in northeast Kansas. He can be reached at email@example.com.