People using technology

Resilience, fostered by technology.

What was your average day like in February?

Maybe you woke up, got ready for work, stopped for coffee, and sat in rush hour traffic.  You might have spent a lot of time in conference rooms with coworkers, eating at crowded restaurants, and going to happy hour with friends.

But by March, everything had changed. The morning coffee and crowded meetings were suddenly dangerous.  Coughing in the grocery store?  Taboo. As our lives went virtual, we found that technology became a centerpiece of this global health crisis.

Technology has long been a staple of our day-to-day lives.  Online shopping and Zoom meetings aren’t exactly a new phenomenon, after all.  But what is new is just how many of us are relying on these technologies for nearly all aspects of our daily routines, from working and maintaining relationships to feeding our families and making sure our children keep learning.

Bryan Semaan is a professor at the iSchool, where he researches ways people are using technology to become more resilient.  As we face ongoing economic and social disruption, he notes that technology has taken a central role not just in helping us maintain some semblance of normalcy during this crisis — but also in helping us cope.

The key to staying resilient during any crisis, Semaan says, is to adapt, to create new routines and activities while also continuing with old ones. And technology is often what makes that possible, as we are seeing now during the coronavirus pandemic.

For example, technology has enabled us to stay connected to friends and family, which is crucial for coping with stress. People are using platforms like Zoom to host virtual dinner parties. Dates have gone virtual, with couples watching movies together via video chat. Neighborhood-centric app Nextdoor has empowered people to reach out and assist each other with childcare or picking up groceries.

Some people have even picked up new hobbies. Fender has been offering free guitar lessons, for instance, while CorePower uploads new yoga videos on demand every week. Technology is enabling us to seek out new avenues for creativity from the safety of our own homes.

In the midst of a global pandemic, we’re leaning on technology like never before, relying on it not only to support our personal and professional lives, but also to help us cope.

Semaan looks to interactions as simple as millennials providing tech support to their parents as a template for something we apply on a larger scale moving forward. It’s those kinds of networks and relationships, where people are helping others adapt to the current crisis, that could be leveraged to help drive technological literacy in the future.

Semaan recognizes that even with all these ways to connect, many people are finding this situation very challenging. He encourages everyone to keep in touch with their social circle, noting that you never know if someone is going through the same struggle until you reach out.

While it’s undeniably true that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed differences in people’s individual challenges and circumstances, it’s also shown us that we all rely on many of the same things. In this way, technology unites us all.

As things gradually return to “normal,” we should take the time to think about what we’ve learned and how we can continue to apply it to our work, our relationships, and ourselves long after quarantines are lifted.

Technology gives us the hope of bringing together the best of our physical world and the best of our virtual world into one.

The result will be a stronger, more resilient, more connected society.