Feature

2020 on Hiatus

Can Social Distancing Free Us From Networking?

2020/05/26 ,

Opinion

Syrena Lin

Syrena Lin

Syrena Lin is a headhunter and a former legislative assistant in Taipei.

What you need to know

As social activities are at an all-time low, are we realizing that social events and networking are overrated and mostly unnecessary?

Despite Taiwan’s social distancing guidelines, we have been free to dine out, go to karaoke, or even travel domestically. We’re lucky to have kept most of our routine aside from some event cancellations.  

The most significant lifestyle changes I have experienced are regular facemask wearing and the reduction of social and networking activities. These adjustments have been inconvenient, but they may be good for us in the long run. 

I used to hate wearing a face mask. It made breathing difficult, especially during summertime. However, I've started to get used to it. With my face covered, I don't need to smile, laugh, or "look good" when I don't feel like doing so. With others wearing masks, I can even just pretend to not have recognized someone when I'm too tired for small talk.

At the height of the pandemic, I went straight home from work on weekdays. Sometimes I dined out or went to a cafe in the evening, mostly by myself or with my boyfriend. Although I met up with friends sometimes, there were almost no work-related social events. To be honest, I've been quite content with such a plain schedule.

If anything, we should be least worried about the pandemic in Taiwan. I'm not sure if I've been rejecting invitations to attend social events for the sake of minimizing the risks of infection, or if I’ve just been using social distancing as an excuse.

配合防疫 民眾逛美術館戴口罩(1)
Photo Credit: CNA
Taipei Fine Arts Museum requires visitors to wear face masks for the entire duration of their visit. 

The lack of networking events, surprisingly, caused no disruptions to my work or my social relationships. When the world has overcome Covid-19, will we go back to hosting lavish events and glamorous dinner parties? Or will we realize we don't need so many social events to maintain relationships? Better yet, we might find out we don't need to build that many connections to survive.

It was stressful having to reply to social event invitations. If I rejected an invitation, I felt guilty for not spending time with friends or not networking enough. But if I said yes, I started feeling exhausted and anxious because I didn’t want to sacrifice "me-time" for these events. 

Networking is overrated. Most of the networking events I’ve been to have not lived up to their promise. My relationships with friends and colleagues tend to arise naturally, as a byproduct of common interests or goals.

I imagine a massive reduction of unnecessary social events when the pandemic is over. Less pressure, fewer expectations. People will have more time with their families, close friends, and themselves. In terms of career, professional skills should be valued more than social skills and connections.

On the other hand, social distancing and isolation can reveal the importance of maintaining connections with others. Cultivating relationships outside of the home while staying at home is both a new lesson and a new type of interpersonal relationship. 

The internet has made it easier than ever for us to have active social lives during a time of isolation. People are now using social media more actively. New online communities have emerged because of Covid-19 lockdowns, such as gatherings held on Animal Crossing and music festivals run on Minecraft. Tinder has made its Passport feature free, encouraging users to connect with people around the world.

故宮Open Data加入動物森友會
Photo Credit: CNA
Taiwan's National Palace Museum offers 22 pieces of artwork and artifacts for players to download on Animal Crossing on May 21, 2020. 

Global “quaranteen” WhatsApp groups have been created by teenagers to support and connect with each other, and even hold online birthday parties. The world is now redefining “community” with widespread charity and empathy for strangers.

Some experts said that "people will happily abandon social distancing practices after Covid-19, but some social behaviors and norms may be forever changed." This might be true.  While I’ll gladly resume some old habits like shaking hands with others, I’ll be happy to see reduced obligations to be social become permanent. 

As much as I appreciate having social distancing as an excuse, others might feel differently depending on their personality and how deeply the crisis has affected them.

This pandemic has shown us that we can stay home and function without having to constantly pursue new relationships and exchange business cards. 



TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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Next article:

What Does It Mean to Be an Expat, Anyway?


2020 on Hiatus:

Our world has been plagued by things beyond the coronavirus itself: panic, disinformation, racism, unemployment, and loneliness. In a series of essays, we’re going to talk about the social and psychological impact through personal anecdotes and observations. Together, we would imagine the possibilities that await us after the pandemic.

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