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This is a really simple, and hopefully, rewarding and meaningful exercise we can all do.

The only barrier to participating will be your broadband connection.

If it is dodgy and you already spend indeterminate amounts of time waiting for the frozen rictus grimace of the person you’re zooming or hanging-out with to unfreeze, what I am about to impart as an exercise in intimacy will be lost on you. Though you may want to try filling the down-time by capturing screen-shots of the best ‘frozen faces’ and creating a ‘rogues gallery’ to while away the moments.

But, if your broadband is bulging with bandwidth, we’ll crack on.

Now, hands up who’s spending a ridiculous amount of time on Zoom meetings or call meetings or meeting meetings of any kind? Thought so.

It seems that though we are winding into our newly virtually-streamlined dance of life and work reasonably well, some of us are finding it hard to shake the need to be busy being busy.

Working from home seems to be an exercise in existential professional angst.

“Should I have a Google meeting Calendar?”

“Should I just ‘be around, dial in whenever’ or more formal and less available?”

“What is ‘too many meetings” in a COVID 19 world?”

“ How do I project value to my employer while ‘not in the room’?”

We also then have the aesthetics and logistics of the Lockdown Screen-Age. There’s been lots of adjusting, and light moving, all to sort the Zoom friendly ‘best angle.’ We know full well that people are surrepticiously viewing our Now – the life of us visible around the edges of our in-screen head when we meet. Slightly to the left? To the right? Painting or book shelves in shot? But which books? Which artists? What do they say about me? Back to the wall, or space behind me? Comedy zoom-bombing by family members [or pets]? Or door cemented shut with barbed wire?

Questions questions questions.

The one outcome or effect? 

Zoom & FaceTime saturation. And a staggering disappearance of natural intimacy.

Once upon a time when it wasn’t used for everything FaceTime was fun and quite personal. Not any more!! You are as likely to have your line manager, CEO, business partner or the accounts department on FaceTime as you are your 12 year old and the family dog.

And it’s also getting a little ‘performance’ out there.

We are trained almost chimp-like to ‘lean in’ [the crap silicon valley speak for being half-interested] when the camera is on. And we seem to be suffering from accelerating excitability, so desperately in need are we of a new face/conversation/topic/theme/human to point ourselves at.

So we tend to perform a little more – and in turn perhaps be a little less genuine?

So how do we rediscover intimacy not only in the absence of hugs and physical proximity – the rub of life – but also in the accelerating tsunami of zoom screens and facetime?

And here is my thought – and, as I say, it’s really simple.

Select someone you love – family, friend, child, grandparent, anyone – and the best channel on which to connect with them – hangouts, face time or zoom.

Then do the following:

  • Agree in advance that you will only be on the ‘call’ for 5 minutes max – no more
  • Agree that after the first minute, you will both stop talking. 
  • Agree that you will just look at each other directly; no wriggling or evasion
  • Agree that you will do that for as long as possible.

And see how you do.

This is about a simple shift in behaviour with big impact. And putting the staggering intimacy of silence and direct gaze to work.

And it’s tough. You may only get 10 seconds in – or, perhaps, like a lot of other things recently, you may surprise yourself and last longer. 

But don’t underestimate it. To engage, fully, in silence – to truly look at the person, and not demand noise, action, words or response; that is ‘powerful shit, man’ as Cheech may well have said to Chong at some point in the late 60s early 70s.

To look at the person directly, and just be comfortable with that and the deafening silence of it can be remarkable and so intensely intimate you’ll be amazed. Or terrified.

Someone mentioned that they’d be lucky to get through 2O seconds without either breaking wind, slurping tea, cackling randomly or bursting into tears.

Well, all of those sound great to me. But perhaps all at once might be a challenge. 

Give it a go and then at least you’ve tried and there’s another thing to cross off the Things To Do In A Lockdown list.

Bon Chance