Zoom Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Let's Hop On Call



I love my family

I really do

I even wrote an article about how great my five older sisters are


But it's big

And at times

A bit chaotic


With myself

My 5 sisters

10 nieces and nephews

Aunts

Uncles

Parents

And everyone else in between

My family gatherings have enough heads to fill a stadium scene in a movie


The only difference is

Stadium scenes are full of extras

Whereas my family

Is full of stars


Amazing characters

All of whom are deserving of the main role

As the protagonist in our epic family story


But unfortunately

When you put a bunch of stars in a room together

There's less room for each of them to shine


Less opportunity to deliver their lines

And less influence to drive a narrative


When you're dealing with an all-star cast

Full of the biggest and best personalities

While also sprinkling in some strained histories

Grudes

Emotional knots

And overall unresolved conflict

It's not hard to see why tensions are bound to arise


For me

I find it helpful to imagine a person as their body

And their personality as a bubble that surrounds them

The bigger the personality

The bigger the bubble


Using this idea

It's possible for me to imagine a room with 30 people inside of it


The room itself is plenty big to fit 30 people


There's couches to lounge on

Tables to sit around

And more bathrooms than one could dream of


Each person has ample space


But it just so happens

That each of these 30 people has a big personality


So while the room may be big enough to fit the bodies of these 30 people

It isn't big enough to fit the bubbles that surround them


Because of this

The room has exceeded its maximum occupancy

Not in terms of people

But in terms of personality


This results in personality bubbles brushing up against each other

Causing friction

Causing tension

And competing for space


This example helps me understand that people actually take up more space than just their physical body


Which means...

Just because a room can comfortably accommodate 30 bodies

Does NOT mean that it can comfortably accommodate 30 people


Now remember

I love my family

Probably as much as you love yours


Getting together for Thanksgiving is my single favorite day of the year

And any opportunity for us to convene is a welcomed treat


So the point of this article is not to burst anyone's bubble

It's to talk about a very pleasant observation I had recently


As of 2020

My family is more decentralized than it has been in my entire life


Due to personal arrangements

Employment opportunities

And the general need for change

What used to be a relatively centralized family unit mainly located within New York State

Now also occupies

Connecticut

California

Florida

And Texas


My family

Once held together by the power of proximity

Has been flayed across this beautiful country

From sea to shining sea


This means that the welcomed treat of convening

Has lost most of its practicality


When a pandemic gets tossed into the mix

The ability to convene gets eliminated entirely

No matter how strong the desire to convene may be


Right?


Well

Not so fast


Remember

I said that I had a pleasant observation recently

And while what I just described fits the criteria for being an observation

It's hardly pleasant


The pleasant observation comes from interactions I've been having with my family

Interactions that have been made possible thanks to telecommunication platforms such as Zoom


Most people have used

Or at least heard of Zoom at this point


Maybe you've used Skype

Google Hangouts

FaceTime

Or some other breed from the same species of technology


I'm choosing Zoom for two reasons

One

Because it's what my family has been using

And two

Because it's seemingly becoming the genericized trademark for telecommunication services In the same way that Kleenex is the genericized trademark for nose blowing services


Thanks to Zoom

My family has had the ability to 'get together'


In the last three months alone

We have celebrated:

Two Passover seders

My dad's 70th birthday

My niece's not 70th birthday

And my nephew's bar mitzvah

All through a computer screen


Initially

I found this kind of depressing


Family gatherings devoid of the physical presence of people you love definitely feel a bit less wholesome

And celebrations via a screen literally and figuratively lack the depth that in-person celebrations come with by default


But


To my surprise

These gatherings and celebrations ended up being more enjoyable than expected

All of them


No fighting

No friction

No tension

No nothing


Instead of those things

I felt a sense of camaraderie

A sense of togetherness

A sense of bonding


Everyone was there

And on top of that

Everyone was happy to be there


These healthy hangouts gave me a reinforced feeling of assurance


They showed me time after time

That my decentralized family was not only able to convene in a centralized digital space

But thrive


And it was exciting to see

In many ways

It actually feels as if this is the closest my family has ever been

Despite the fact that we've literally never been further away from each other


At first

This seemed counterintuitive to me


How could there be a positive correlation between the distance of individual family members and the health of the overall family unit?


In other words

How could more miles mean more smiles?


And in what ways was Zoom facilitating this?


But when I sat down to think about it

Things started to make more sense

Particularly for 3 specific reasons


First:


We want what we can't have

So when we can't see each other

The desire to do so goes up


It's supply and demand


And as the supply of opportunities for my family to physically gather decreases

The demand for my family to physically gather increases


Zoom meets this demand by providing an alternative solution that wasn't feasible until relatively recently


As a result

People are more inclined to be in a good mood from the outset of the gathering

Because in a sense

Zoom allows us to have what we 'can't have'

And who doesn't love that?


Second:


Zoom solves many aspects of the personality bubble problem


The issue is not that my family doesn't want to see each other

It's the friction that arises from personality bubbles that can't be contained within a relatively small physical space


Zoom's functionality accounts for this


You can mute yourself

You can turn off your video

You can even walk away from the screen for a while


Zoom affords an individual's personality bubble as much physical space as it needs

While still allowing that individual to convene and communicate digitally with others


Third:


And most important

The model of conversation is much different on Zoom as compared to real life


At a real life family gathering

Many conversations can and do happen in parallel


I call this model M.S.A.A.T Communication

Many Speakers At A Time


My mom is sitting at the table talking to my aunt

My sister is on the couch talking to four of my nephews

And I'm in the bathroom talking to myself (kidding)


There's multiple conversations happening simultaneously

These conversations are like little sub gatherings

Happening within the greater super gathering


This is good and bad


It's good because many people can be conversing about different topics at the same time

But it's bad because many people can be conversing about different topics at the same time


Having the freedom to chat about whatever with whoever is ideal

Nobody wants to get locked into a conversation they are not interested in having


But when a gathering resembles a quilt of conversations

There comes along with it a reduction in communal connection


Since each sub gathering is discussing a different topic

The super gathering becomes conversationally fragmented

And can lose cohesion until a central theme is found

Such as

'Okay, let's sit down for dinner!'

Or

'Time to sing happy birthday!'

Which brings the super gathering back into alignment


Zoom on the other hand

Has a completely different flow of conversation


No matter how many people partake in a Zoom gathering

Only one person can speak at a time in order for the gathering to operate in a healthy way

Because when multiple people try to speak at once

The conversation is reduced to noise


I call this model O.S.A.A.T Communication

One Speaker At A Time


So while conversation topics can change based on who is speaking

Sub gatherings are not able to form

Resulting in a central theme of conversation throughout the super gathering at all times


This alone is enough to increase communal connection

Whether people agree with each other or not


And trust me

There is no shortage of disagreements in my family

But I observed that the O.S.A.A.T model of communication has been good for cohesion

And like I said

It was a pleasant observation to have


The three reasons above helped me grasp how there could be a positive correlation between the distance of individual family members and the health of the overall family unit


In other words They helped me grasp how more miles could mean more smiles


And they helped me grasp in what ways was Zoom facilitating it all


But for the last time

Remember

I love my family


So to be clear

None of this is to say that I would want to replace all physical family events with digital ones

But at times when physical gatherings may not be possible

Digital gatherings have proved to be more than an adequate substitute

- Harry W. Brodsky


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