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Column: Using technology to keep in touch with the people we care about during a pandemic

Toni Guagenti [Courtesy]

BY TONI GUAGENTI

VIRGINIA BEACH — Early in the pandemic, I lay in bed on a Sunday morning and thought about the ramifications of the self-quarantine on my social life. Some of us are gregarious by nature – extroverts, believe it or not, who thrive off meeting new people, mingling, engaging in stimulating conversation and, yes, hugging.

So I pondered my future mental state and thought, “Wait, why not create a WiFi Wine Wednesday with my friends?”

I reached out, like a lot of us are doing these days, on social media to my core group of gals – we call ourselves the Core 7 – and asked the other six women in the group: “When are we having our virtual Therapy Thursday? We could have WiFi Wine Wednesday.” Within minutes, I had three responses, including “How do we do that?” and “I like that. Have you heard of Zoom?”

After some back-and-forth, we decided to make a go of it three weeks ago. On a Thursday, six of us showed up – phone or tablet and beverage-of-choice in hand – and, amazingly, began communicating via small cameras and microphones in our devices, bonding in a whole new way, thanks to Covid-19.

I prepared some brie, crackers and Kalamata olives for the occasion, with a smooth and lovely black cherry White Claw. No joke.

Patty had sangria, Debbie and Nancy their signature red wine, Eileen Pinot grigio and Carolyn water.

We ended up doing a group chat on Facebook messenger. The quality of the call was surprisingly clear. We chatted about the virus, about how our work had been impacted. We talked about life in these challenging times. We talked about needing each other, albeit virtually, to get through.

Some of us shared our pampered pets, Eileen’s bird, Buddy, sat atop her shoulder. Patty’s cat, Lil’ Smoke, made an appearance. So did Carolyn’s dog, Pretty Girl. My puppers, Norton and Rocky, jumped in my lap upon my coaxing so they could be virtually seen.

Some of us lost the call and jumped back on, all the while trying to be polite and let one person at a time talk, since, just like being in a group face-to-face, multiple conversations at once is distracting. 

But you have to do what you have to do.

Thanks to that pesky global pandemic.

Eventually, some of us got off the call to make dinner. Three of us stayed to mess around with Facebook messenger filters. Some of us had an easier time with overlaying our faces with anime characters, kitties, bunnies, cheetahs, monsters and even a big pizza face – highly amusing to this fine group of friends ranging in age from 48 to 68.  

Some of us are still trying to make it work.

It’s not the same as meeting in person at a restaurant happy hour or one of our houses, but this virtual call made us all feel like we truly are in this together – and that we have each other’s backs when and if necessary.

Debbie said, “It was so much fun connecting with my girls. It made me feel so grateful for this technology during this hard time so we can still stay in touch.”

Since that time, I’ve had several virtual calls with various other local friends and my college gals via Zoom. I’ve known these women 34 years, and not one us has changed deep-down. This past week, I enjoyed a virtual call with my family in Ohio. I’m not sure why we all didn’t do this sooner.

These chats definitely spread a little sunshine on uncertain, out-of-control times.

It’s my way of virtually letting my friends and family know how much I love and need them. Now more than ever. Cheers.


Toni Guagenti, a former journalist, is the author of 100 Things to Do in Virginia Beach Before You Die, now in its second edition. She works as a social media manager, freelance writer, marketer and political consultant. She lives in Virginia Beach with her two Italian greyhounds, Rocky and Norton Luigi.


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