The Platform

Roman Boed

The pandemic has affected people in many different ways and changed how they deal with others. The added everyday stress of the pandemic, along with the constant reversal of policies on what to do and what would work in social gatherings, caused more people to become “mad at the world,” withdrawn, distrustful, and very cynical when it comes to dealing with others.

Interactions with other people, like in a work environment, are significantly less desirable for many. That is not just conjecture, there is empirical research providing a clear insight into this shift.

One large company initiated a survey of 1,000 employees in 2020 to see where people’s minds were when it came to working-from-home on a full-time basis. In their initial response, most would want to stay in some type of work environment with only 6% wanting to work-from-home.

After one year of working from home, another survey was distributed to get their insights on coming back to work. In the fall of 2021, the percentage of employees wanting to stay home and avoid face-to-face interactions jumped to 46%.

Other companies are seeing the same hesitation about returning to the office. More companies are instituting hybrid programs where employees only have to come in part of the week, instead of coming back full-time.

Due to virtual learning, children who are in developmental stages lost their ability to gain knowledge by not being able to see their teachers’ facial expressions in a classroom setting versus over a webcam.

The damage to various relationships is real and should also be of concern.

Pure kindness to a stranger is such a rarity, it is many times rejected by those who need it most. Some people have become socially withdrawn and cannot fathom someone who would be nice to them, so their defenses scare most well-intentioned people away.

Remember the band War and their hit song, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” It covered a lot of the issues we face today: getting along with others.

When it comes down to it, do you really have a lot of friends? You may think so, but you really don’t. All those “friends” you try to collect on social media are not friends.

You have many acquaintances and maybe some “bar buddies” you interact with, but real friends? One or two, a few at best. Maybe none, if you have fallen far enough into a depression.

That was pointed out to our class by one of my High School English teachers decades ago in the early 1970s and at the time we all discounted his comment or at least looked at it with a lot of youthful cynicism.

After several decades of running across 100s, if not 1000s of people from all different socioeconomic levels, it turns out he was right. As he painted the picture years ago, true friends rise above many issues as well as many other people you know of, to support you in your time of need or crisis. When you are sick or when you need someone to support you in a crisis or bad time, few answer the call, let alone show up at your door.

When it comes down to it today, you have many acquaintances from work and other social outlets, including social media, and very few friends. True friends are rare.

As the song, “God Bless the Child” pointed out so poignantly, “AND when you got money, you got lots of friends, crowded ‘round your door…When the money’s gone and all your spending ends, they won’t be ‘round anymore.”

Those aren’t friends. They just wanted someone like you to pick up the tab. Or, they just needed you in order to break 300 or 500 on Facebook or one of the other social platforms.

Here is something I came across years later and it still rings true today, “I value a friend who finds time on their calendar for me, I cherish one who, for me, needs no calendar.” This is more what that English teacher was trying to convey to us. True friends do not mind if their day is disrupted. They will always make time to find a way to be with you.

“Keep your head together and call my name out loud” lyrics from James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” (1971) is still good advice to those who start to panic when they feel everything is caving in around them.

Has society been thrown back to the 1970s? High gas prices, social unrest, crime, inflation, another unwanted war halfway around the world to deal with – what’s next? You would hope we made more progress in fifty years.

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.