So. After the past year and a half, we now know that most of the thousands of meetings we have pitched up for in our lives could have been emails. All that sweaty commuting and wiping of damp upper lips on the way in; all those security passes and battle over the air-conditioning; all those presentations and round tables. They could all have been emails. Or, at a stretch, Zooms.
Since March 2020, we have been Zooming and typing, snoozing and calling, walking and talking, attempting to remotely prove our worth while feeling rather worthless and it has confirmed that one truth: almost our entire working life could have been an email. Why go back?
Trouble is, if your professional lives could have been merely a series of emails then maybe our romantic lives could have been the same. Maybe this marriage could have been an email? Perhaps our friendships could have been cultivated, grown and nurtured over email. Trying new foods could have happened only via restaurant delivery and online grocery orders. Our shopping experiences – interiors, clothes, beauty – could all have been virtual and transactional? Sex? Apps and vibrators only. Health? Classes via the laptop and Zoom doctors appointments with DIY blood tests. Since life boiled itself down to emails and video calls, we have realised how much time we wasted running from pillar to post.
And yet, daunting though ‘the return’ continues to be, it is only the prospect of life with no texture that makes us want to dive back in. Understanding that we must take the rough with the smooth. In isolation this meant missing human company but also have lots of time to watch telly. It meant staying in every day and night and yet feeling more and more exhausted. Life – when it is only an email – is a tiring panorama. Sure, no threat to our alone time but also no nutrition.
Which is why, even the most reluctant of us are twitching at the curtains of being out in the world. A walk turns into a coffee. A coffee turns into a lunch. We may not be able to deal with changing rooms but it’s quite fun to finger the fabric before we buy. Or sniff a candle. Or have a chat with the shop person. Is these micro-connections – rather than the big, scary parties and massive, expensive conferences – that remind us that life isn’t an email. That remind us that, while virtual life has been a godsend, in the end, it isn’t enough.