Face to Face in the Digital Age


One of the complaints that hovers over the new age of virtual reality is the perception that digital tools and mechanisms of communication damage our human-to-human contact and interaction.  I personally do not know a single Video_Conferencing__Web_Conferencing__Webinars__Screen_Sharing_-_Zoomperson who believes that we no longer need face-to-face, person-to-person connections. At the same time, I am amazed at the resistance of many to using virtual face-to-face tools – FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and my favorite – Zoom.  In fact, the number of professional groups that I belong to that still insist on using the terribly inadequate mode of telephone conferencing simply astounds me, when we could be “meeting” on affordable, easy-to-use video conferencing and actually see one another face to face!  And to top it off, large corporations and universities still do not provide such an interface, or if they do, the systems are expensive, difficult to use, and oh-s0-inadequate. As an example, I recently agreed to try the latest and greatest Blackboard version of video conferencing, called Collaborate, and the people in charge of introducing it to me could not get it to work from my cross-the-country location!  We could have been on Zoom in just a few seconds, at a very small fraction of the cost (if any) invested in the “sophisticated” learning platform.

But I digress with this tirade – what I actually want to bring to the forefront is that if we do value person-to-person connections and relationships, then we are obliged to recognize and use, creatively, the many digital tools now available. We do not yet know definitively the effect that virtual environments have on human-to-human relationships, and sometimes we experience these environments as alienating and unfriendly. But as nurses committed to enhancing human health, surely we cannot ignore the possibilities for using digital age tools in ways that not only compensate for the hazards of alienation, but that actually enhance human-to-human interaction and communication that supports human health and wellness.  Seeing others on a screen is not equivalent to seeing them in person, but it certainly is a thousand-fold more enriching and effective that simply hearing their voices (phone conferencing), or reading their words (emails, discussion boards, etc)

If you have not yet discovered at least one of the accessible and affordable video conferencing tools that are available – let me know!  I will be glad to introduce you to at least one or more – all you need is a device with a camera!

3 comments

  1. Teaching online has heightened my awareness of how good tools such as ZOOM can provide a level of communication that is person to person. It is important to look critically at tools and as you note, use the ones that are most effective.

  2. Peggy, so many great thoughts here. I was an online graduate student 2001-2005; I then started teaching online, so I have seen a lot of changes over the years. I love my ZOOM and that is what I use for all of my video conferencing with students.

    I also wanted to say I have formed some great friendships online. I can think of a few people (actually both people I am thinking of are nurses!) I met online or mostly online via facebook through our mutual friends. Then when we have finally been face-face at conferences, it’s so easy, like we already know each other!

    I do know some educators who use facebook pages as part of their curriculum communication…

    • Facebook is a great idea, especially since many folks are “on” Facebook frequently! We used to think of coordinating things to happen in convenient geographic spaces — now we can think of convenient virtual spaces!

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