NEIL COUPE: Using technology to adapt our lives

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Neil Coupe
Neil Coupe

What extraordinary changes we have seen in the past few weeks, as we have adapted our lifestyles to come to terms with the terrible Covid-19 crisis.

Nothing that we have faced before has prepared us for a situation like this when our day-to-day lives have been so fundamentally affected.

Already many of us know of victims, even if we do not know them personally — the real fear that very soon it could be people very close to us.  

The crisis has even impacted on our use of language. When we are finishing a telephone conversation and say ‘take care’, it is no longer simply a polite way of signing off; it is now a heart-felt instruction.

Something as simple as going to the shop or taking exercise feels dangerous and indulgent. 

In this area, we are blessed in having so many pleasant spaces to take our daily exercise with Ludgrove and Joel Park being particular oases of tranquillity, yet taking the daily walk or cycle ride still feels unsettling, as people demonstratively move away as I approach (for the avoidance of doubt- this has only been happening since the social distancing rules introduced, or at least I’ve only started noticing it since then).

The crisis has however demonstrated how crucial technology has become to maintaining our social bonds, with isolated elderly relatives able to see and speak to their families via Skype or Facetime,  neighbours are able to use WhatsApp groups to successfully co-ordinate assistance to the vulnerable, and in many cases assist us in identifying who our neighbours actually are.

We have a whole new way of doing things. Apps such as Zoom, which had barely been heard of until a month ago are now part of the national conversation, and indeed are used to run Cabinet meetings. 

A month ago, a  five-hour Zoom call to half-a-dozen friends over a few beers would have seemed an absurd way of replicating a pub trip.

All of a sudden it’s a highlight of the week and is in the calendar for the coming weekend. People seem to be looking for innovations in their social lives on almost a daily basis.

The next stage in our embrace of social media apps as a conduit for a social life is a virtual Ready Steady Cook dinner party, where we will have  five ingredients left on the doorstep and will have half an hour to be converted into something edible prior to the online reveal as the Zoom call begins. 

Three weeks ago it would have been inconceivable that we would want other people witnessing us eating, or that they would want to.

The complications of lockdown appear to be less challenging to young adults, who in many ways have socially grown up online.  Online quizzes seem especially popular and one of the common rounds concerns social media, and more specifically attempting to ascertain which quiz participant posted what. 

It appears that hardly any of these sophisticated young people recognise the often, shall we say, excitable posts that their younger selves shared with the world in cyber space as teenagers.

Many of us are facing minor and manageable changes to our routines as our contribution to the quest to limit to limit the spread of the disease. 

Spare a thought for those facing a prolonged period of loneliness, a period of time unable to get respite from an abusive partner, for young people missing out on their education, and especially for key workers in the NHS and elsewhere whose work is so vital to all of us, and is frequently carried out in a situation of potential great harm to themselves. 

Thank you to all those amazing people for keeping the country going and for saving lives.

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