What We Have Learned From this Crisis - An Early Outlook

It’s been three months since I wrote the article about using Social Media in Times of Crisis. Since then, like so many others, I’ve been working remotely from home. My way of living has changed, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot.

Which, of our new ways, will stick going forward? Will we revert back to our grandparents' ways for some tasks? 

People around the planet have extra time in their days because they’re not commuting, they’re not visiting friends and family, they’re not going to conferences or on holiday, they’re not playing or watching team sports, they’re not going to see movies or live, in-person performances like concerts and theatre. When we get to the other side of the pandemic, what will some of those activities look like?

Looking for Food and Exercise

Some people are using this time to change their diet and exercise practices and are getting more fit. Others are taking on the “quarantine-15”. I've been planning meals I'll serve when I resume having people over for dinner.

My mum started making a no-knead bread recipe and gave me a couple loaves… home-made bread looked easy and now I’m a baker! Alas, yeast was hard to find, but Mum’s a great shopper and located some. My dad got me a Dutch oven for baking that recipe and I’ve been feeding my sons fresh, warm bread every few days. Mum worked out each loaf costs about 35¢ to make (plus electricity) and this is something that will stick with me long into the future.​

What have we learned blog image - Buying bread tweet

Earlier this year, I discovered Samin Nosrat, a few years after Salt Fat Acid Heat was released. I listened to a podcast episode where she and book illustrator Wendy MacNaughton were featured, ordered the cookbook from Indigo, watched her short Netflix series, and found out she’d hosted a lasagna making class. I've had more time to read her book and daydream that she and I are friends...

For my birthday (celebrated a couple weeks into staying at home), my parents gave me some money. With some of it, I bought myself a newer-model FitBit. It’s inspired me to try to hit a certain number of steps each day and move away from my work desk more frequently. I’ve also enjoyed the ParticipACTION app and the Fit Breaks they host twice a week at lunch.

My dogs are getting more walks, but fewer trips to the dog park. That will teeter-totter back to what it was with dog park dates with a friend and her dog. 

Mark Kanemura is a former dancer for Lady Gaga. For weeks, he hosted dance parties on his Instagram account and his energy and fun level was infectious! Once he’s back to work, he won’t be able to lead the daily dance.

Looking to Learn

Instead of listening to podcasts on my commute to work, now I listen to them on dog walks. I recently listened to an episode of 99% Invisible called The Natural Experiment that featured several researchers who are using this special time “to learn something new about the world”. Specialists are redesigning experiments and studies to take advantage of this rare occurrence. The most interesting study to me is by Michelle Fournet, an acoustic ecologist at Cornell University in New York. Each summer, she studies humpback whale sounds in a particular bay in Alaska. For the first time ever, this summer she will be recording the whales communicating without interruption from cruise ships.

“This is the first time in human history that we’ve been able to listen to truly quiet behaviour. We will finally get a baseline for what the ocean sounds like in the absence of human activity” – Michelle Fournet

Similarly, geographers reported the effect of the absence of condensation trails over North America in the three days planes were grounded after September 11, 2001. 

My sons have learned how to use Microsoft Teams to collect and submit school assignments. Office workers have learned how to work from home and work colleagues have enjoyed video conference interruptions from pets and children. 

I’m missing out on wonderful opportunities being shared by professional artists like the Arkells’ teaching their own music, piano lessons from Chloe Flower, and #drawtogether led by the aforementioned Wendy McNaughton.

One friend has taken up bird watching, using a couple apps to help identify the birds near his home and out on walks. That’s going to stick.

Looking for Socialization

As people spend more time in their communities, I’d like to think that more connections are being made with their neighbours. I recently met my two-doors-down neighbour after asking if my kids could use their basketball net (yes!). I see more people walking, though is that because I’m working from home? When I’m out for a walk, I think more people are making eye contact, smiling, nodding or saying "hi" than before. 

Through social media, we saw apartment neighbours participating in bingo games, exercise classes, dance parties, and musical performances.

 A friend observed that interactions now are more intimate and "smaller". She explained that she makes more eye contact in an attempt to navigate, particularly when wearing a mask, and a connection is made with that one act. She looks at this time of being less busy, less rushed, as time to practice mindfulness that will be good for all of us.

What have we learned blog - balconies tweet

Looking for Entertainment

I've sought out more humour in my entertainment choices. I’ve watched all of John Mulaney’s Netflix specials and my younger son easily talked me into watching Game Night.

On the flip side, I’ve also watched darker shows like Contagion and The Platform. And I watched a “Stephen King movie” with a friend in Kingston… meaning, we started the movie at the same time and chatted about it as we watched, #togetherapart. We joked about not being young enough to use an app her daughter uses to synchronize movie viewing. I also watched Tiger King, which lies between humour and darkness. 

Sirius XM offered free access on its app until mid-May, which I took advantage of. I’ve been entranced by Yo-Yo Ma’s cello playing #SongsOfComfort​ and laughed at the quick - and fleeting - popularity of "I Wonder What's Inside Your Butthole". I have not, however, removed the cover from the piano keyboard, to plunk away at some of the pieces I used to play by muscle memory. The ukulele hasn't yet moved from a bedroom closet. It looks like there's still time, though.

Sir Patrick Stewart ​read a William Shakespeare Sonnet a Day on Twitter. Phoebe Judge, one of my favourite podcast hosts, has been reading classic mystery novels, releasing a chapter a day. She’s covered Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder on the Links, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Wilkie Collins’s Moonstone​.

We are in this together and while it’s isolating, it’s also unifying.

“You still need to believe that all your effort wasn’t for nothing, that we could - we will - survive a dark moment in history and that when that happens, we won’t be left without the things that made those moments decipherable and meaningful and therefore tolerable”

- Taffy Brodesser-Akner, "What Happened to Val Kilmer? He's Just Starting to Figure It Out" (The New York Times Magazine)

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