17 April 2024

How tech kept interactions alive during the pandemic

| The European |

Covid-19 may have made physical interactions tricky in 2020 and for much of 2021, but recent developments suggest that it didn’t make us any less social

Instead, the world of digital technology created new types of social interactions during this time.

Anecdotal evidence of this is all around us. Everyone from office workers to estranged friends used Zoom during the initial stages of the pandemic. Whether it was for meetings or quizzes, we all know someone that found a way to stay in contact with people via the video streaming platform, and the data supports this.

Bonds formed over video

Although the often-touted figure of 300 million users was found to be incorrect, Zoom experienced unprecedented growth in 2020. The company doesn’t release its usage figures, but we know its expenses more than doubled to $201 million. This increase was a result of more people using the service. Indeed, at one point, there was an estimated 300 million meeting participants on Zoom, which is where the 300 million user confusion arose from. While every meeting participant can’t be called a user, it’s a testament to how popular and, importantly, how social the platform became during the height of the pandemic.

This uptick in Zoom usage not only made socialising possible but changed the way people work. Even after COVID-19 restrictions, a study by Global Workplace Analytics found that 76% of people want to work from home at least one day a week. This ties in with findings from SunGard Availability Services. Looking at the social impact of COVID-19 restrictions and technology, SunGard found that 23% of people formed closer bonds with people via Zoom and FaceTime. We don’t know the context of these relationships. However, the central point is that technology made it possible for people to forge and maintain bonds, even when physical interactions were either impossible or severely limited.

Digitalisation removes borders and opens doors

This culture of digital socialisation has also had a positive impact on education. Federico Frattini, Dean of MIP Politecnico di Milano, has said that schools, particularly business schools, have changed. Online education has switched from being an optional extra to a “main foundation”. Modules have been modified, students have been given more freedom to learn at their own pace, and obtaining help via the internet has become a standard. These trends have also been observed in language schools. Preply has noted a democratisation of opportunities within the industry. Its platform has not only seen a rise in demand for online language tutors resulting from increased internationalisation, but an increase in the number of people offering these services too.

This, in turn, has led to the conclusion that now, more than ever, languages are essential for the growth of modern businesses. With more people socialising online, borders have been removed. Setting up virtual offices in different countries is easier because people are used to working remotely. This has increased the need for multilingual teams. Indeed, if we’re socialising across the internet, we all need to understand each other. That’s the world we’re now living in. COVID-19 may have put face-to-face interactions on hold for a while, but we’ve found a way to evolve. Indeed, human nature is such that we’re all social creatures to a greater or lesser extent. The growth of digital socialisation has shown this to be true and long may it continue.

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