It is deep in our human nature that we need each other to survive any disaster.  “Each other is all we have”, was described in Part 2 of this “New Normal” series. Part 1 addressed how we take care of ourselves. Part 2 gave 7 tips for saving and improving relationships in a prolonged crisis.  This Part 3 is about our “tele-community life” in the new normal of Sheltering in Place.

Just when we need our community the most, everyone is isolating at home to reduce social contact and slow down the spread of Coronavirus.  Even though in-person experiences of meetings and community events are the best, we now are getting used to tele-medicine, tele-schooling, tele-business-dealing, online meetings, online dating, etc.. The internet is now holding up our community relationship, society, schools, and economy in this new normal of doing everything from home: working, shopping, getting news, socializing and community support.  We need to be mindful of the benefits, harms, and limitations of tele-community and virtual life.

Until we see the light at the end of this dark pandemic tunnel, here are some tips for coping with the new normal of tele-community life:

We are all in this together

A pandemic requires everyone in the country to act as one because each person’s shelter in place will slow the spread, help sustain the medical system, save lives, and contribute to the economic recovery.  This is no time to be an individualist. Everyone needs to think and act for the collective health of others and the wellbeing of the country, to which each individual’s health and financial security is also attached.

This is the time when a national locking down by all states is needed to reduce infections and death, and to protect our economic recovery. Unfortunately, as of the time of this article (4/1/2020), not all states are locked down. Additionally, asymptomatic individuals not complying with social distancing even in locked down states and cities are spreading the virus unwittingly, causing others to be infected or die.

Ironically, staying at home needs community support to be effective. So we find our community online, on social media, and on TV, in order to find, form and belong to tele-communities.

Discipline screen time a part of daily routine, instead of binge watching 

To be a good member of one’s own community demands that one has good mental hygiene first and foremost.  We all feel a sense of lack of control when our world is turned topsy turvy. In order to keep our orientation and direction we naturally want to be informed.  However, the internet is full of biased opinions, misinformation, and disinformation; and the fast-changing nature of the pandemic’s development floods TV, media, and social media. It can be overwhelming and detrimental to our mental and emotional health.

On top of that, many “wanna-be thought leaders” are inundating our in-boxes and social media, trying to cash in during this crisis, when people are anxious and thirsting for direction and community support.   

Overconsumption of information will not inform any of us beyond what we each need, but the excessive screen time will exacerbate anxiety, confusion, helplessness, loss of control, and loneliness. 

Set a limit for your screen time – when, how much, and where your info comes from

Limiting when and how much you engage in screen time, and building it into a daily routine is helpful. Perhaps 30 minutes in the morning, and 30 minutes in the evening, or watching news on TV while cooking and eating. If you value a good night’s sleep, make it a rule that you disconnect from any screens an hour before bed time. 

Also, where you get your news matters a lot. I myself prefer getting news from Bloomberg, the Economist Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic Magazine, Apple News, Time Magazine, and some trusted posts by my social media friends.  It is crucial to read everything with an analytical mind and critical thinking. 

Select your tele-community carefully for social life

Some quick (and dirty) metrics. Am I learning new perspectives and trusted information from it?  Is the community tolerating different views and styles? Do I feel comforted, understood, and supported?  Is there too much negativity? …

Contribute to your community with positivity

A community, online or not, is like a bonfire – each burning log is one of its members.  Each person contributes positive energy, and the fire will burn well. The opposite is also true. Instead of merely expecting, asking, and taking from a community, contribute your positive vibe and optimistic energy to it. That will also make you feel a sense of belonging. As discussed in Part 1, to be of service to others comforts the afflicted as well as those who serve.

If you don’t have anything helpful to say, don’t say anything at all

When there is too much unhealthy noise in your tele-community, your silence is more valuable. Peace and quiet can inspire and calm others more than a chatterbox.  

Phone calls are better than texting and social media chatting

Next best to in-person meetings is hearing each other’s voices in spontaneous conversations.  Call your loved ones, friends, and those in your community. God gives us all the senses to connect and hearing is more personal than reading texts.  We can hear the tone, the personality, and tenderness (or lack thereof) in each other’s voices.  

We must be one world community to defeat Coronavirus

A virus knows no boundaries – state, national, or international.  One local community alone cannot defeat it; neither can one state or one country.  This is the time for us all to think as one world, and come together as a new global community, sharing scientific knowledge, expertise, and humanity to defeat the common enemy of Coronavirus.  This pandemic either limits us to withdrawing into ourselves and playing a zero-sum game where all lose, or challenges us to expand our thinking and unite the country and the entire world together. 

To tackle community problems such as Coronavirus, the limiting mentality for individually isolated gig economy or regional thinking must graduate to a sharing economy, locally, nationally, and internationally via tele-community, virtual community, and actual community. Our world is simply too small and too interdependent already to be isolated from one another in the long term.

From this pandemic, the world will either emerge a better or a worse place for all humanity, and it is up to each one of us to contribute to the victory. 

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By Joanne Tan, April 1, 2020. Edited by Glenn Perkins.  © Joanne Tan 2020.

About the author:  Joanne Tan is the CEO at www.10PlusBrand.com, a full-service brand marketing agency helping businesses decode the DNA of their brands, create differentiating verbal and video content for websites, and amplify their brands’ impact with social media, content marketing and SEO.