Losing touch – Coping with the effects of virtual communication

November 2022

We’ve been living in a world where virtual communication has replaced so much of our normal interactions for over two years now. While the world has started to open up again and we’ve been able to hug friends and family, we’re still dealing with a world where social distancing is the new norm. After two years of physical distancing and missing out on hugs, handshakes, and friendly taps on the shoulder, it’s no surprise so many people feel detached.

Social isolation can take a toll on us both mentally and physically. One study concluded that even 10 days of isolation can have long-term effects on our mental well-being.

Let’s take a closer look at how virtual communication is affecting our mental well-being and 4 ways you can maintain a healthy balance between virtual communication and your mental health. 

Touch is a clear form of expression

Touch is one of the simplest and clearest ways to convey key positive emotions, such as empathy, gratitude and affection. A hug from a friend can instantly comfort us and an arm around our shoulder can help us feel secure. So, with most of our interactions now virtual, we may struggle to feel comforted and cared for.

Video calls are an important way to stay connected but…

Video calls can be draining

Video chats require more focus than face-to-face interactions because we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues, like tone of voice or body language. This makes it difficult to settle into the natural rhythm of conversation.

Plus, it’s just you and the camera. This can put pressure on us to always be “on.” Even looking at ourselves on camera can be an overwhelming experience for some. All of this can be simply exhausting.

4 tactics for maintaining a healthy balance

Here are some tips to help strike a balance between social connection and physical health.

Limit calls

This isn’t easy, especially if your work routine involves a lot of meetings. If possible, build in buffers so you don’t go from one video call to the next and instead have some time to walk away from your computer, stretch, or even go outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air.

Mix it up

Larger group chats can be especially difficult because it can be hard to see everyone and keep up with the conversation. Try to include some one-on-one catch-ups with a close friend, colleague or family member where you can connect on a deeper level.

Turn off the camera

You don’t need to be on video all the time. If you aren’t comfortable, tell the other person you’re going video silent. Since everyone is in the same boat, chances are people will understand.

Maintain screen/real-life balance

Being on the screen all day can be exhausting. Make sure to take some time for yourself. Do something you love.

Before the pandemic, many of us were already spending a lot of time on our phones. Now, it’s escalated even further as our phones have become so central to our social interactions. Set your phone to vibrate, turn it over, or put it in another room to give yourself a break.

Our minds need a break from constant stimulation and the pressure to respond.

Think about the positives

While we all miss connecting in person, there are some positives to reflect on. The pandemic means that we all have something in common to talk about, which for many, is leading to reconnections. Many of us are finding that we talk to our friends more often, and in a more meaningful way.

Maintaining connections, especially during the pandemic is vital for our mental health. Just make sure you keep an eye on your body too. 

You can also check our coronavirus (COVID-19) page regularly, for important information and more articles. 

Manulife is not responsible for the availability or content of external websites.
This article is for your information and educational purposes only.
* BEACON®, BEACON & Design® and MindBeacon™ are trademarks of MindBeacon Group.

Related articles