Woman speaking to someone using a cell-phone

Over the past couple of weeks I have found myself pondering an unprecedented amount of “what-if”s, as I am sure we all have, but there were a few in particular that really stunned me: 

  • What if I were living alone right now?
  • What if I wasn’t privileged with such a wonderful support system?
  • What if I was not being checked in on?

An introvert at heart, I am usually incredibly content being alone for some time – reading, listening to music, picking up old hobbies, spending some time alone with my thoughts doesn’t scare me. Having gotten to know myself better over the years, however, I know that I am also someone that heavily depends on social interactions to feel motivated, inspired and healthy. As we were forced to face this global pandemic, I not only considered physical, face-to-face interactions as being essential in our daily lives, I considered any interaction without them to feel unnatural and incomplete. Needless to say, I didn’t have high hopes for the sudden shift to virtual connections this pandemic was enforcing.

It wasn’t as if my skepticism was based in inexperience; as a member of an immigrant family I rely heavily on virtual connections in order to interact with relatives back in Europe. I may not be the best at spontaneously picking up the phone and calling up relatives, but I am certainly no stranger to this being the only way to maintain and practice intergenerational rituals – Professor Loe speaks about the importance of these here . However, I would still much rather hang out with my grandparents in-person rather than over FaceTime – wouldn’t we all?

As the global pandemic continues to take over our lives, it becomes more and more important to provide care to the people in our lives that need it. While we quarantine indoors, technology allows us to easily call up a family member, FaceTime a parent, Netflix Party with our friends, or Zoom into a classroom space. While most of our lives have been drastically altered, the consistency of these interactions can re-introduce some sense of normalcy into our lives. People are finding new and creative ways to interact with each other while still abiding by social distancing measures, turning to technology-driven solutions out of necessity. 

I used to think that the physical aspect of care-taking was essential to the practice. In experiencing some of the creative and alternative means of connecting with others, I found myself remembering what care-taking is all about – the emotional, community-building connection formed between individuals. While speaking to my friends, I have taken note of how loved and cared for a simple “Sarah, how are you doing?” has made me feel. Our conversations have shifted from a “let’s make plans” mindset to a “how are we all coping” mentality – in doing so, I believe we are developing some of the essential skills necessary for care-taking.  Checking-in on loved ones over the phone or FaceTime may feel like the most simplistic form of care-taking there is, but it is these interactions which make all the difference. 

Once the pandemic passes, whenever that may be, I hope that we continue to practice such seemingly-simple yet critical care for others – hopefully reaping the benefits of the care practices which we developed virtually and applying them to our in-person interactions. During these past few weeks I have found myself calling up family members spontaneously and more frequently, making these interactions feel much more natural and real. FaceTiming with friends has become a nightly occurrence and reaching out to old friends feels much easier. I aim to keep up these practices even when I am not forced to do so by a lack of physical proximity, but rather to maintain the sense of community that I have felt form as a result of the chaos we have found ourselves surrounded by. 

7 Replies to “Long-Distance Care

  1. I loved this ! I feel this post is very relatable for many people, including myself, as I am also working to create a new form of long distance care. It was so wonderful hearing you address your own family and how you have managed your long distance relationship with your relatives. I am someone who, in a way, fears being alone, as I often get too tangled up in my own thoughts, and so throughout this whole experience I have relied heavily on over the phone communication. Even if I have nothing to update a friend on, it is still comforting hearing their voice and seeing their face. In this unknown and scary time, it is healthy to feel some sort of normalcy via video chatting and having as close to a face-to-face conversation as possible. I do also hope we learn from this experience and continue to lend a caring hand in the future when this is all over.

  2. creating care networks have been so important for people to check in on family members and friends as you said. I love what you said about these forms of networks to translate into when the pandemic is finished and what we will be like after. We want this type of mentality to continue. Keep checking in with our well-being and understanding how we are feeling. Thank you for sharing your story Sarah!

  3. Hi Sarah! This pandemic has also caused me to reach out to family members more. A few nights ago my whole extended family Zoomed, and it was so great to catch up with everyone despite being scattered along the East Coast. I agree that coming out of this situation, we should apply what we learned about virtual care practices into our “in-person” lives.

  4. Sarah, I wholeheartedly agree with all that you shared in this post. As much as we would like to maintain face-to-face interactions with loved ones, we are faced with various barriers such as distance under these circumstances, whether it be long-distance or short-distance. Turning to technology-driven solutions is the only feasible option for many individuals to ensure the safety and wellness of family members, friends, and other individuals in their respective communities. And though this form of communication may not be ideal, we must be grateful that we have access to technological devices that make communicating and practicing long-distance care possible. Many individuals do not have access to these technological resources and I cannot fathom the agony they are enduring as they worry for the safety and wellness of loved ones in various geographical locations, especially those that are most vulnerable to the virus and have unfortunately contracted it.

    I also find the many ways in which individuals are utilizing technology-driven solutions to be quite inspirational. For instance, throughout various social media platforms, I have seen friends, family, and many other individuals (celebrities, fitness trainers, etc.) engaging in virtual workouts, virtual dates, and overall providing care to one another.

    Finally, I agree with hoping that we can take the time to adopt the care practices we have been virtually engaging in daily during face-to-face interactions post-COVID-19.

  5. Well said — I particularly love your line, ” I hope that we continue to practice such seemingly-simple yet critical care for others.” I hope so too!

  6. Sarah, thank you for this post! I can’t agree with you more. I am still on campus quarantining here, as I did not want my parents to be infected. I now more than ever rely on meaningful communication through technology. I have started the habit of calling my grandmother every day to check in. She is worried about me, so it is to lessen her worries and it is also incredibly comforting to talk to her every day. I previously would only speak to grandmother every few months on the phone. However, now I see how beneficial this communication has been for her and for myself. Like you said it is so simple, yet so impactful.
    I have also received emails from Professors checking in on me. It has been really nice knowing various people are making sure I am okay. It feels good to be reached out to and to also reach out to people. I hope this mindset of community care persists through this pandemic and after it.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this post as I too have become aware of the various ways that people have started to creatively communicate and care for one another during these challenging times. While it is difficult to step away from natural practices of hugging, shaking hands, etc I think that technology has allowed us to communicate with one another in a number of ways. I have found that while the quarantine has in some ways made me feel more isolated and alone than ever before, my paths of communication with family and friends has been consistent and has kept my spirits high! This “free time” has actually given me an opportunity to reach out to family members that I do not see or speak to often as well as some friends from high school that I have not seen in a while. This has made me hopeful and thankful that communities, families, and friends are continuing to practice methods of care in perhaps even greater ways than ever – something positive to take away from these troubling times!

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