A new puppy entered the household last fall and with her came a new term: “the zoomies.” That's when the dog gets so excited and energized that it runs back and forth in a frenzy. It's a bit startling at first, but you get used to it after a while and accept it as a necessary way to discharge excess energy.
In a sense, we've all had the zoomies for much of the past year, though technically we should call it the “Zoomies,” since that's the formal name of the software that has become synonymous with connecting online. While much has been said about burnout from online meetings – for work, entertainment or family – much can also be said in praise of the technology that has allowed us to expand our worlds.
Many of us first came to Zoom and similar platforms, including Google Meet, Facebook Live and Microsoft Teams, through the need to continue things like public meetings, live performances and classes after the pandemic shut down the ability to meet in person. Quickly they became indispensable tools for maintaining connection and continuing the function of local, state and national government, as well as our need to nurture our love of learning, art, and connection with our tribe, whatever that might be.
We've gotten used to logging in and seeing a quilt of faces that is, in a way, more intimate than would happen if we were meeting in person. We see into people's homes, or glimpse their creativity in the creation of individual backgrounds. Sure, they might be wearing pajama pants or sweats, which is sort of the point; it's a more informal way to meet, and that often comes across in the relaxed demeanor that we see on the screen. They're not all created equal – some people have more trouble controlling the virtual space than others, and not all of the platforms are user friendly – but they all serve the basic purpose of keeping community together.
At some point it will be possible to once again hold in person meetings, classes, concerts, plays and other performances. But will we ever abandon the Zoomies? Not totally. We can foresee a time when select boards and other town committees may meet in person, but the virtual component will still exist; and that's a good thing, as it will, we believe, encourage more public participation. As Jennifer Sexton-Riley reports in this week's paper, many arts organizations are planning to retain the virtual aspect of their programs, as they've found that it allows them to reach a deeper and more extensive audience.
And as long as they don't start dashing madly around the living room, that's a good thing.