Loneliness and On-line Living
Imagine yourself in 1918/19/20 anywhere in the world.
This time was the era of the infamous Spanish Flu.
Lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a quarter of the world's population at the time. The death toll was estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million. The flu was considered to be one of the deadliest pandemics in history.
A large factor in the worldwide spread of this flu was increased travel. Modern transportation systems made it easier for soldiers, sailors, and civilian travellers to spread the disease.
Another was lies and denial by governments, leaving the population ill-prepared to handle the outbreaks.
Hmmmm. Let’s just think about that for a moment.
Food, clothing, petrol, leather and other items were rationed. Perishable items such as fruit were not rationed. Access to luxuries was severely restricted. People in the countryside were less affected by rationing as they had greater access to locally sourced unrationed products than people in cities, and were more able to grow their own.
In America, states and cities across the country told people to do what we now know as social distancing. Schools, restaurants, and businesses were closed. Public gatherings were banned. People were told to isolate and quarantine. In some places, this lasted for months.
As the disease progressed, so did the government-imposed measures. By Oct. 10, 1918, the state took the unprecedented step of ordering all public institutions closed. Schools, theatres, saloons were ordered closed, football games cancelled. Libraries closed. Eventually, sanctions were issued against public coughing and spitting. Funeral homes stopped having open-casket visitations.
Cities and entire states imposed emergency measures similar to those in place today, aiming to flatten the flu’s curve by keeping people apart from each other. Places of business, education, and worship were temporarily closed, and masks were required in some areas.
This was the era that predated the Internet, predated TV, predated even commercial radio stations, so a true shelter-in-place order back then would have been a much bigger hardship than it would be for most people today.
Back in 1919, Americans drove their Model T's to see silent movies (before the restrictions, of course) and dealt with new-fangled inventions like toasters and zippers.
Responses within Australia varied from state to state but the crisis often led to the closure of schools, churches, theatres, pubs, race meetings and agricultural shows, plus the delay of victory celebrations. (After the end of the first world war.)
The result was not only economic hardship, but significant interruptions in education, entertainment, travel, shopping and worship. The funeral business boomed, however, as the nation’s annual death rate went up by approximately 25%.
It looked like the telephone might help people carry on their lives with minimal disruption.
1918 - It was estimated that approximately ten million Bell system telephones were in service throughout the U.S. There was that then.
The phone also emerged as a means of news dissemination in an era when even radio was not yet a mass medium. (The first news broadcast didn’t take place until 1920.) At the time, the most expedient way to share breaking news was something newspapers called stereopticon bulletins.
Both publishing medium and brand-building exercise, they involved projecting news alerts, photos, film clips, and cartoons on giant screens at a paper’s headquarters or other location. Think of them as analog predecessors of the electronic news tickers that survive—just barely—in hubs of activity such as Times Square.
The world's first television stations first started appearing in America in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The first mechanical TV station was called W3XK and was created by Charles Francis Jenkins (one of the inventors of the mechanical television). That TV station aired its first broadcast on July 2, 1928.
Electronic television was first successfully demonstrated in San Francisco on Sept. 7, 1927.
So no TV to use to divert us from the situation in which we find ourselves. Pity.
Not Much Radio
The radio broadcasting of music and talk intended to reach a dispersed audience started experimentally around 1905–1906, and commercially around 1920 to 1923.
From as early as 1890 there was already a system whereby news, music, live theatre, music hall, fiction readings, religious broadcasts, etc., were available in private homes [and other places] via the conventional telephone line, with subscribers being supplied with a number of special, personalised headsets.
The first commercially sponsored radio stations in Canada appeared in 1922. The first British station offered two daily half-hour programs of talk and music from Chelmsford (near London) in 1919–20.
The first voice and music signals heard over radio waves were transmitted in December 1906 from Brant Rock, Massachusetts (just south of Boston), when Canadian experimenter Reginald Fessenden produced about an hour of talk and music for technical observers and any radio amateurs who might be listening. Earphones only. No loudspeakers.
One of the world’s first scheduled radio broadcast services (known as PCGG) began in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on November 6, 1919.
And no radio to listen to.
Gramophones were available
From the mid-1890s until World War I, both phonograph cylinder and disc recordings and machines to play them on were widely mass-marketed and sold.
But these were quite expensive, as were the discs and cylinders, so were not as readily available to the masses as might be expected.
Radio in Australia
The first radio "broadcast" in Australia was organised by Ernest Thomas Fisk of AWA on 19 August 1919. He arranged for the National Anthem to be broadcast from one building to another at the end of a lecture he'd given on the new medium to the Royal Society of New South Wales.
What Does All This Mean For Us?
It seems that, in the historical perspective at least, we are so much better off then our compatriots 100 yrs ago that it hardly bears thinking about.
On an entertainment basis alone we have it better now. For example telephones with unheard of features, radio, TV and music players right here in our own homes. No need to go out for this kind of amusement.
Let’s now look at the electronic side of things.
There are smart phones, hand held computers (tablets and laptops), The Internet, and the most wonderful of all (at least in the area of connection and keeping in contact), social media. Again, all this right in our own homes.
Be kind. Refrain from judgement. I don’t mean that social media in its entirety is necessarily all that wonderful, although we must remember that it is only a medium for our society to provide the content. If we do not like this content it is not inherently the fault of the platform, but of our compatriots – the content providers.
But my point is, as a communication and connection system, it is very hard to beat if used in a manner that conforms to the acronym TLC. Is it true, logical and constructive? (Emee Vida Estacio).
It opens up a whole new world.
We have so much to be grateful for.
Without leaving the comfort of our homes we can talk to, virtually visit, and actually even see (live) other people with whom we can communicate. It is almost like being there without the hugging.
Yes, I realise the endorphin rush one gets from hugging and other physical contact – even the shaking of hands – is absent, but that is really a learned behaviour and we can LEARN to overlook that in the short term.
The number of ways the community in which I live at least, has stepped up and found new ways to amuse those within it, and others near and far as a community goes, is nothing short of miraculous.
Name any endeavour, pretty much, and you will find that being practised here.
Music, cooking, art including photography, painting, drawing, sculpture and many other handcrafts are being lifted out of the attic of our minds and given 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th chances.
What Am I talking About?
Imagination has no bounds. Many people who have been doing stuff face to face up until now, and for whom social or physical distancing is not an issue, have begun to operate “on-line”. Business as usual.
We have musicians performing alone in their lounge-rooms or studios. (even a bedroom in one case). They are doing this because it is part their daily practise anyway, and since they can't perform at a venue, they reckon their music should still be available for those who want to hear it. So it is. Fun and entertainment for all.
Then there's teaching. Classes can be held using interactive video apps (zoom for example) on phones tablets and computers where teachers do pretty much the same as they did before. This has covered, music, dance, fitness – all varieties, yoga, karate and other activities including group coaching sessions.
For online classes, groups have been set-up so those joining, the yoga class for example, can only do so once they have paid - online – the usual class fee. They can then be admitted to see and participate in the activities.
Musicians and visual artists as well, have been supplying PayPal (or other platform) payment addresses on the bottom of their screens so those who wish can pay for the entertainment or artwork as they would if they had gone out to a venue shop or gallery. If you can put a price ticket on something, there is a way to receive money for your efforts. You can even just receive donations of any amount the payee wishes to make.
Then when it’s all over you pop into the next room to eat your dinner. And have a fully deserved glass of wine if that is your thing.
Obviously the same or similar payment activities apply to take-away food purchases and most other retail set-ups where online ordering is taking place via hastily set-up call centres. Again delivery is made by the vendor or the purchaser picks up their order from a designated place obviating the need for any risk of breaching of physical distancing rules.
Many people have turned to writing as a form of amusement for themselves, and the future entertainment of others. In our town this involves writing plays to be presented on our radio station. This activity also revolves around bush poetry and other kinds of writing, such as short stories and novels. The field is huge.
Gardening and other hobbies.
By the time we have included designing, creating, weeding planting, watering if required and caring for the gardens around our homes, there is not much time left for anything more, except maybe jigsaws? We even have clubs for that. Swapping jigsaws. Keeping track with photos of our progress on the various Internet platforms.
I mean the ways we can divert our minds AND keep in contact with other people (those we know and even strangers) is virtually endless - Pun intended.
We have a Facebook group where people cook stuff for themselves, for the local shops and for those unable to make the same effort due to age or disability. These dishes are shown in their finished brilliance, and some of the cooks/bakers actually video the whole process as a teaching exercise as well. In these cases our presenters have often had to learn new skills totally unrelated to the cooking process to be able to make this whole thing available to others. How do I make a video for example?
This is something they have had to find on The Internet (not available 100 years ago, remember) and using the YouTube platform as an example, have been able to master some techniques they had not even thought about before. These new skills will stay with them now and forever. How cool is that?
Quite a number of citizens have begun doing stuff for businesses, schools, councils, and other facilities (wherever this can be done while still abiding by the now normal distancing rules), in a way that safety and keeping the spread of this disastrous disease at it’s lowest lever possible is maintained.
Chopping up fallen trees into bite size bits and distributing these to older members of our society free of charge and neatly stacked by the back door of their home, is a self-set task of at least one of the chaps in our community. Keeps him busy, happy, exercised and knowing he is helping people who are in need of this kind of service. And he ends up with his farm free of broken trees. Cost to our benefactor – a bit of petrol for the chain saw and the ute and a LOT of physical exercise. Again you might say a win-win. All can be done without worrying about any one being near enough to anyone else to spread the virus. Fantastic.
Even without high end technology, we can all find things to do to amuse ourselves during this time of enforced stay at home thingy.
What about dressing up to take out the bins (by yourself) – taking a selfie and presenting it on all your social media platforms as something else to do. We are all so inventive if we let ourselves be. Oh well a bit of technology. But you can get help with that if required.
Add in the whole online experience and we have e-commerce (selling your stuff on line no shop rent, fit-out, or any ongoing costs), photos and words and a bit of extra service where it is useful, such as contact free deliveries and you are set. Payment all made online without touching anyone. Works for almost everything except for services requiring actual physical contact like hairdressers and other therapeutic services.
I guess one of the things we need to think about when life returns to normal, is what kind of normal do we want going forward. What is the NEW NORMAL?
There is the issue of, usually older, people who do not have any electronic means of payment (credit or debit cards) and who distrust them anyway so would never use them, or believe they are too old to change and learn the new way of doing things , online computer or smart-phone, (not actually true and a self-defeating belief) but these people may insist on doing everything the old way and paying with cash which is probably the easiest way to pass on the disease, and is likely to be refused by vendors as too much of a risk.
Handling actual money is a sure fire way to catch the virus no matter how careful one might be. A very high risk activity.
For these people there is here a great need for gentle education, coaching, lifting of self-confidence, and enhancing belief in themselves and their inherent abilities. And trust issue need to be addressed. Dealing with closed minds is part of this process. It can all be done while still adhering to social distancing rules. Just takes patience, empathy and understanding.
We can all adapt if there is no other way. That has been proven by history for many decades.
The imaginative mind can always find a way round an obstacle if that is the only way in the end. No one needs to lose their dignity. More about this in a moment.
Loneliness & On-Line Living
How does this all relate to loneliness - the reason for writing this in the first place?
Well, without being judgemental or making false assumptions, I am not sure, in the face of all this above, how anyone can be lonely. At least here in my home town.
But - remember you have to DO something. The world does not owe you anything. If you sit around waiting for the sky to light up and to hear a big deep loving voice crying out to you, telling you exactly what to do for the next 6 months. Specific steps, and giving you all the process information needed to make it all work – then you are a tad deluded I'm afraid. That will not happen. Not like that anyway.
Those who talk about manifesting and The Universe (people who have read The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes for example) KNOW that you must DO something. They also know that as you move through whatever it is you have DECIDED TO DO, certain clues make themselves apparent to you. Suggestions about your chosen path. You need to be attuned to these hints and your life will take on a whole different meaning.
Note: much of you original planning might become redundant during this activity, but follow your heart (The Universe) and you will be surprised where it takes you. Or maybe not. I dunno.
However, with so many people going out of their way to create support systems for others, and making new ideas available, during this crisis, there is really no excuse for sitting out this dance.
I know it’s hard. Was for me. I became an organiser of dance parties and a manager of night clubs in the mid 60’s (when I was a teenager) as it seemed the only way I could even get girls to talk to me. I did have very bad acne.
I just could not put myself out there and make it happen. So I understand if there is a certain amount of reticence. But you have to get out there. Try something very easy.
In our case, my town, look at FB, find a jigsaw puzzle picture posted by someone in one of the support groups here, buy it next time you are at the shops, or look for it on-line (eBay or something else) and do it. You can connect very gently with some of the others in the group and ask about a difficult bit, or boast about finishing it. Not lonely.
That is the beginning of a connection. Keep yourself open and you may make a new friend. Wouldn’t that be loverley? Of course his might be done internationally as well. Remember the Internet is world wide. Having someone you can ‘talk’ to even if it is just typing a message and they are 12K km away is a connection. They are a ‘friend’.
Computer literate and on-line.
This is or can be a major hurdle. Again I understand. I used to be so scared to touch a keyboard because I figured I was so dumb and stupid, I’d do the wrong thing and delete everything on the screen.
I decided to overcome this affliction and eventually became a help-desk manager for 4-5 years at various places of business in my country. You can do it. You just have to make up your mind and follow your heart.
I know I've said this heart stuff before, but it is important because we humans all tend to OVERTHINK pretty much everything and it is that which often ends up with us curled into a ball, fetus-like, trying to hide from the world that hates us and trying to avoid the very thing we want; companionship and perhaps even love.
Computer literacy is just like that. We overthink it. It is not really hard. Commonsense most of the time, but while there is a learning curve, there are very many people in your real world that you can talk to live and touch (after the virus business anyway) and they will be overjoyed to help you master a few basics. Most often for no money, as these people can be a tad evangelistic and just want you to know what they know.
To type a few letters or articles or whatever, send & receive emails, and ”surf the net” as they say, are really all you need in the beginning. You’ll find, I bet, that you want to learn more after you master these steps.
But, guess what? These computer nerds / teachers don’t know you and they don’t know that you’re are waiting to learn stuff unless you get out and ask. They are not – most of them anyway – clairvoyant.
Lying in bed saying, “I am lonely, poor me,” and just waiting for it all to happen is not going to cut it, I’m afraid.
The simplest act might be just putting a hand written notice with your name and phone number on a lamp-post or two or a verandah support or a shop window in town, asking for basic computer help. That’s a really great start. You might get a phone call. You’ve answered the phone before so it’s not that scary. Not like approaching someone, a stranger in the street. Keep yourself open and you never know you might suddenly find yourself beginning to like the new you.
If you don’t have a computer, these nerds may be able to help you at their place or help you purchase a computer and all the bits and pieces you need to get started. How cool is that?
The whole process is a bit like a pool that you are frightened to jump into because it might be cold, but you’ll find once you get in (even just slowly one inch at a time) it is is actually quite OK. And you only need to stay for a little while. Perhaps the second time a bit longer? And so on.
Each of these are steps away from the over-arching blackness of loneliness.
Perhaps this enforced isolation during the COVID-19 virus pandemic will be the push you need. Make a move.
You are NEVER too old to learn knew skills. It just might take a lot longer if your faculties are becoming a little mixed up. But you have time if you are older and retired, don’t you? It might be all your really have.
At the end of this virus generated need for physical isolation, and life changing experiences, we will come out the other side a very different and much more resilient society than that which reluctantly entered this state of being in Jan-Feb 2020.
We will have learned, again a lot of the things our ancestors from 100 years ago learned. We will have, hopefully, become more attuned to our families and be more aware of our responsibilities, in a social sense, to our neighbours, to those who work with us, for us, or provide us with service of the very many different types.
We will have found new and different ways to amuse ourselves. We will all have learned new things, unless we did the ostrich head in the sand thing.
We will have changed the way we do entertainment, service to others, and business in general in many if not all our current enterprises.
Some of us will have been forced to downsize their activities - perhaps to nothing, through no fault of their own and may find that they are completely at a dead end and need to start all over again. From scratch. That is sad. They will do that. Or change the way they are doing life.
We have survived many of these pandemics as a human race. this one will not beat us either.