Listening and Learning Across the Screen
October 29, 2021
October 29, 2021
There are two types of people in this world: those that are die-hard fans of Real Housewives…. and those who are not. And maybe a third group who could care less.
Picture a typical evening in front of the TV. You’re dying to discuss the latest about RHONJ’s Theresa’s catastrophe or share thoughts on RHOSLC’s Mary’s “hospital smell.” But your roommate/partner/dog/whoever is on the couch next to you, probably could care less what you think about what Ramona just said. So you turn to the next best thing. A virtual watch party where you can let your commentary fly. There are a lot of them out there. You can choose one for R.H. fans like you, or one that has differing opinions, or gasp, one that is actually for the haters.
Virtual events like watch parties have been on the rise since the pandemic started. People are looking to engage and connect with a world beyond their own homes. They are tired of having the same conversations with the same people about the same things. It’s like Groundhog Day and they are lacking the stimulation that comes from interacting with new people about new ideas.
With virtual events, you can explore a realm not made up of your family, your friend circle, or your new BFF (also known as the cashier at the local supermarket!). You can make new human connections over your laptop. And you’re not cornered into a particular location or community so you can interact with other groups and cultures from around the globe.
By coming together virtually, we are opening ourselves up to listening and learning and exchanging fresh ideas with each other. We are forming new cultures and sub-groups of concurring and conflicting views. And we are creating new opportunities for sharing that will stay with us long after this pandemic is over.
In under three years, Civic Dinners has facilitated about 2,500 conversations from its hometown of Atlanta and across the U.S. and internationally. Civic Dinners is a virtual engagement platform that brings people together for meaningful conversations that spark real and lasting change for a more inclusive world. They provide a framework for discussion of significant issues and help people connect over shared experiences, common goals, and collective dreams.
Civic Dinners gathers six to ten people on a video chat for drinks or a meal to discuss a specific topic. A host leads the discussion with three big questions and everyone has equal time to share with one voice at a time. The format is designed to avoid debate or dominant voices, and instead encourages listening and understanding of different perspectives. Upcoming dinners will cover bridging the racial divide, the voice of women, and grappling with the pandemic.
Bar trivia began in England in the 1970s and was designed to draw patrons in on slower nights. Now those nights have become even slower as bars across the U.S. have gone into lockdown during the pandemic. These go-to gathering places for a night of drinks, socializing, and trivia have pivoted to the virtual world.
One of those games that shifted was Drew's Clues by hosts Drew Cranisky and Hanna Mosca. They used to host in-person trivia nights at a Pittsburgh pub and have now moved the game online. Teams listen to Drew read the question and then go into virtual breakout rooms to hash out the answer over drinks. The game has been virtually connecting friends, family, and strangers across 31 states. There are plenty of virtual trivia games to test your knowledge and some to check out are Online Quiz League USA, King Trivia, and Geeks Who Drink.
So maybe you’re more like Andrea Bocelli and you prefer listening to the sound of silence. Then the Silent Book Club is for you. It started in 2012 in San Francisco and has since grown to 260 chapters in 31 countries. Chapters meet virtually, silently read whatever book they’ve brought usually with a drink in hand, and then share what they’ve learned. Unlike more traditional book clubs, there is zero pressure to talk and no assigned books to read.
The chapters used to meet in person, and members feel like the virtual Club provides a sense of community when many are feeling isolated. Individual chapters in countries have used the virtual setup to come together. In Italy, the Turin, Bari, and Rome groups held a joint meeting for the first time. In India, the chapters in Hyderabad, Delhi, and Bangalore joined up to stream writer talks.
While all of us are suffering from some level of social isolation and loneliness during the pandemic, those feelings are being seen a lot more in both older adults and kids. Eldera is bridging the gap between the generations by pairing kids ages 5-15 with adults 60+ over Zoom for virtual story times, help with schoolwork, or just a friendly chat. Eldera facilitates the matches based on interests and availability and runs background checks on participating adults.
If you’re looking to build connections intergenerationally and virtually, there are lots of other organizations out there looking to connect you. Some are even old-school and focused on letter writing like Sharing Smiles or on the phone with DOROT’s Caring Calls. There has also been a rise of tech-savvy kids helping seniors deal with the challenges of making appointments for the coronavirus vaccine. One thirteen-year-old does it for free as part of his tech support business.
Of course we all still miss in-person meetings and being able to physically connect. Listening and learning from each other across a screen is probably the next best thing. Until it’s not. Zoom fatigue is real. It can be hard to stay focused and engaged and not be distracted.
There’s something called the “Ringelmann Effect” named after French architectural engineer Max Ringelmann. Way back in 1913 (loooong before Zoom existed), he asked a group of people to pull on a rope. He then asked individuals to separately pull on the same rope. He noticed that people put more effort into pulling as individuals than when they worked as a team. The ‘effect’ he learned is that the bigger the group, the less responsibility each individual feels to ensure success. In other words… it’s easy for you to get distracted and not put much effort into a productive group Zoom call. You may feel less needed, so you contribute less, and that leads to a less gratifying experience.
But when we do contribute, our voices are sometimes lost in the craziness of these virtual events. Believe it or not, the key to a successful event isn’t to be the loudest voice – it’s being a good listener. Thoughtful and active listening raises your status in the discussion and makes it more likely that others will listen to you as well. You can build more meaningful connections virtually by acknowledging what is being said, connecting the dots, and asking questions.
We’re guessing Max would have been a Housewives fan. He would have loved to see the dynamics of that wild group of women. And he would have happily joined a virtual watch party to share all his observations.
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