Dr Julie Albright Presents “Living Untethered as a Result of COVID-19”

July 22, 2020
By PRSA-SV Board Member Robin Kim
Dr Julie Albright Presents “Living Untethered as a Result of COVID-19”

“There is a collective grief that is happening as in-person rituals have disappeared as a result of the pandemic,” noted digital sociologist and USC lecturer Dr. Julie Albright at PRSA SV’s Friday Forum. “These rituals could come in the form of the greeting you give to the barista at the coffee shop, the joy sitting with loved ones, or the simple but profound fulfillment in hugging our loved ones hello. That sense of loss is everywhere, and we should acknowledge it, and articulate it, to ourselves and with others.” — Dr. Julie Albright

Friday’s Forum focused on five ways we can refuel and increase resilience during a prolonged period of life during a pandemic.

1.     Reconnect with our new fundamentals: values that are fundamentally rooted in purpose. “We need to acknowledge that our lives have changed, and with that, our values,” said Julie. “People are reassessing what’s important and stripping away what’s not.” Forum participants commented on the fulfillment they receive when giving and bridging to others in new ways, whether offering Zoom 101 tutorials, delivering groceries to the Amazon-challenged, and other actions. It reaffirmed how seeking happiness for others enables us to find happiness, purpose and meaning for ourselves.

2.     Release our pressure to be an expert. Professors who command a lecture hall now struggle on Google Meets; parents feel inadequate home-schooling their children; professionals who worked remotely prior to the pandemic now feel less productive even as they work longer hours. Ongoing uncertainties driven by the pandemic mean it will also take even longer for us to establish a new equilibrium and the muscle memory enabling us to master it. In other words, we are all amateurs, and we are all reskilling in different ways. The consensus: we need to give ourselves, and others, the patience and the empathy we all need and deserve.

3.     New rituals can’t replace old ones, but they can help with healing and (re)discovery. Julie cited the shift toward self-sufficiency as resilience, evidenced by the trend back to victory gardens, bread making, street concerts, DYI home renovations and more. Technology can also help, whether it’s meditation apps or online yoga. Julie notes too that isolation is creating sensory loss and deprivation contributing to depression. Finding new ways to re-energize the senses, whether via essential oils, to learning massage, to breathing fresh air, are all ways we can find the joy that comes with bringing our senses back.

4.     The digital divide will only increase. So will new opportunities to create diversity, equity and inclusion.“The promise of the internet always had this aspiration built in,” noted Julie, “in bridging across cultures and geographies and creating platforms for new voices.” Yet while technology has changed, deeper problems clearly have not and many have increased. The pandemic is also creating new digital divides between knowledge workers, whose stay-at-home options provide more flexible employment options and less health risk, versus frontline workers who have none of these advantages. Recognizing these divides and rethinking ways to balance the equity curve will be fundamental to economic recovery across sectors, systems and cities, much of which will take decades to rebuild.

5.     Make mental health our #1 priority. Covid-19 is creating a mental health pandemic, as more Americans reach out for help to deal with isolation, grief, anxiety and other consequences of the major disruption to everyone’s lives. Going back to basics really means the basics: making stress management a priority, along with proper sleep, nutrition, access to sunshine with its vitamin D healing and immunity benefits, and being active stewards of our own wellness. “It’s basic, but we can’t give to others unless we’re healthy and well ourselves,” said Julie, along with the many session participants who filled the comments section of the Forum with examples and advice.

You can order Julie’s book Left to Their Own Devices: How Digital Natives Are Reshaping the American Dream, watch her 2019 TEDx talk, and learn more about her work on how digital natives are reshaping the American Dream.

To watch the recording,  go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/prsasv/

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