The crisis caused by the Corona pandemic would look very differently if we didn’t have the means of communication that over the last twenty years or so have become part of our lives. We can now communicate effortlessly, and almost free of charge, with family, friends and business contacts, near us and on the other side of the world. Messenger, Facetime, What’sApp and other computer programs not only allow us to hear the people we talk with, but also to see them.
Programs such as Skype, Teams, and especially ZOOM are at present continuously used by educational institutions to teach on-line. Team discussions, large and small meetings, and even congresses and musical events are held on-line, sometimes in a very creative way. And then there are the church services, most of which cannot take place physically, but are streamed on-line for millions of people worldwide.
Last week was a real ZOOM week for me. I started last Saturday evening with a Zoom presentation of 2 hours to the Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School in Loma Linda (10.30 California time and 19.30 Dutch time). On Monday morning at 6.30 (my time) the editor of the Signs of the Times magazine contacted me from Australia via Zoom to interview me for their weekly podcast. From Monday to Friday I was connected with Friedensau University in Germany via Zoom for a few hours every day to give lectures to a group of students. On Tuesday evening I participated in a Zoom meeting with Andrews University and a group of students taking an MA course in leadership, with which I am involved. On Saturday morning, the local Adventist church in Friedensau showed the sermon I had sent them earlier in the week on Youtube, after I recorded it at home. And then in the evening there was another interactive Zoom connection with California. The current week looks more or less the same.
It is fantastic that we have this technology, which is so easy to use that even a completely a-technical individual like me can handle it. But I miss the direct contact with people. And somehow leading and participating in Zoom events requires a lot of extra energy. According to experts, this is mainly because this way of talking to a screen and having on-line contact misses an important component, namely the eye contact with your conversation partners. That seems to cause some confusion in our brain and that is why a few hours on Zoom can really wear us out.
But nevertheless, one could say that the Zoom technology came just in time. It was only about eight years ago that this computer platform was launched and now, in this Corona era, it is impossible to imagine life without it!
By the way, it doesn’t look like technological progress will stop at this point. A few days ago I saw an item on television about the Facebook plans to make Virtual Reality (VR) part of the Facebook possibilities. While currently the special goggles, which you need to have a VR experience, still cost a few thousand euros, Facebook will soon release one that will “only” cost a few hundred euros. With the large-scale introduction of that technique, on-line teaching, meetings, and all kinds of other on-line activities, can take on a whole new dimension. It will allow us to realistically participate in what we see and hear, and play an active role that activity. But already now many experts are warning us about the price we may have to pay for this “progress”. The organizations that offer these services are constantly trying to find out more about us, about what we are doing, where we are, what we are interested in, etc. Because that information can be sold it is worth a lot of money. The question that is becoming more and more urgent is whether we really want to go along with this development, or whether we had better stay away from it. No doubt, there will be a lot of discussion about that.
But, in the meantime, we are truly grateful for what digital technology makes possible for us in this Corona era.