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‘We can’t return to normal, because the normal that we had was precisely the problem’ (Hong Kong graffiti). Is the pandemic a chance for a positive reset?

By August 11, 2020 No Comments

The pandemic is driving a reset – in society, and the world. Disaster often brings out the best in humanity. Social distancing and staying home is an opportunity to refocus on love, relationships, human connection.

In the western world, our tendency is to see resilience as a set of individualistic traits rather than the combined and diverse capacities and resources of a community. It’s time to change that. Despite the necessity of staying physically apart, we have an opportunity to activate the specific type of collective resilience that can emerge when faced with communal prolonged uncertainty and potential widespread trauma. A powerful antidote to loneliness and fear is purpose. Say it again, a mantra for these strange times: we are all in this together.

Some are saying this global crisis is like a major reboot of our world. While there are more desperately tragic parts of that, it is a chance to rethink our values. We’re living in times in which so much is in flux and ways of working and relating to each other will change forever, especially for young people. i2i is a project based around bringing people together to create a better world, so I thought I should write down my ideas on how it could change for the better.

The power of a fun and playful spirit is overshadowed by the current trend of thinking we need to constantly be the best. At universities sometimes that sense of competition can be a barrier to friendship rather than a spur on to up your grades.

Our 13 year flirtation with being constantly connected has eroded a sense of agency, the perspective of maturing thoughts, and the reality of depth in relationships. Our identities today are increasingly mediated by our devices, and designed addictive behaviours in platforms, which keep our eyeballs on our phones rather than on each other.

Isn’t it time to experience the world in an unmediated way, to enjoy a moment in nature without thinking what a great Instagram post it would make, to treat other people with kindness and respect rather than like a fast food item to satisfy our need for instant gratification? Hook up culture is like junk food; the cheap bliss of convenience, as it’s been called.

Because of the way that society has developed over the last decade we have found ourselves in, what’s been called, ‘a loneliness epidemic.’ The opposite of loneliness is meaningful connection and that’s what has become rare in the last decade.

Sometimes you will find pieces of yourself that you never knew existed, in places where you never bothered to look. Other people can illuminate those places for you. We’re all students. We’re all teachers. And we all need each other. We can help each other grow by having the courage to be truthful and vulnerable with each other. A community knows how important relationships are to our health and our wellbeing. We are committed to showing up, doing the relational work, and we will never stop growing.

Technology to date has been less about what would help people but rather what would grab their attention; we need to keep building and using tech that allows us to be better humans. If you can use tech that encourages you to make connections and build meaningful relationships, then your personal life will be more wholesome. This happens when technology starts to exploit human vulnerabilities and weaknesses: social validation, self esteem, dopamine variable rewards, social isolation, rejection and feeling you have to be part of a beauty contest or on a permanent luxury holiday.

In the face of a crisis, what is important to us becomes evident when we give ourselves the space to reflect on what is going to get us through the hard times. And so we find renewed commitment to get back to core priorities. What seemed important before falls apart to reveal what really matters: family, love, community, health and our planet. If we become more conscious of these things and how we consume, live and love it will bring positive change. If you look for opportunities in line with your values, you will be able to see a path through the fear and uncertainty guided by the light that is hope.

Let’s not just hope for the best, let’s make it happen.

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