We bid virtual goodbye to 2020

, by Inés Flor García

We bid virtual goodbye to 2020
Image of a Christmas celebration Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

A month ago, president of France Emmanuel Macron said 2020’s Christmas would have to be a “Christmas like no other”. He was right. It was not a Christmas that will be easily forgotten by the generations that experienced it. It has become almost instinctive to reunite with family, friends, and loved ones during Christmas time. The act of celebrating has, in itself, transcended motives other than sharing the love. However, in 2020, Christmas was bound to be digital and for the sake of love, all of us had and still have to abide by this new standard.

A digital Christmas

Speaking from my own experience, this white time is the synonym of family. It is seeing our grandparents rejoiced by the presence of the youngest ones. It is singing along to Christmas carols almost unconsciously. The household is full. The hallways are taken. The bathroom line seems endless. The table is beautifully decorated in red. Food is never missing, yet one must hurry before one’s favourite meal is eaten by others. The fire, if one there is, is burning. And all is well in the world, since all the loud excitement and movement eclipse all else. However, what this festive season embodies is what we all had to protect by confining ourselves to a more conscious holiday. This year my family did not come home, but they still remained close.

Holiday restrictions

Governments across the European Union presented similar tactics to avoid the fast spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Each country dictated a limited number of people that are allowed to gather indoors and outdoors. For instance, in Spain, up to 6 people from a maximum of 2 households are allowed to gather. In the Netherlands, only 2 visitors are allowed, except for one more during Christmas Eve and Christmas day. In Germany, a maximum of five people from no more than two households. These restrictions show the urgent need to contain the pandemic and to raise awareness of the importance of not traveling back home or gathering in big numbers if putting others in jeopardy, especially one’s own family.

Alone together or together alone?

However, family ‘bubbles’ have not completely fulfilled the kind of social engagement we crave during the holiday season. This is where digital technology has played a significant part. People all around Europe and globally have made use of digital platforms such as Zoom and Skype to share a sense of place. With a shared space online, they also found the means to share stories, watch a movie all together, or simply the satisfaction of being concurrently connected. Technology writer and MIT professor Sherry Turkle reflected on the effect digital technologies have in family, friends, and love relationships culminating in the thought that we are but “alone together”. But, without denying technology’s dark side, it has become our hero throughout the year of 2020 and until its very end.

Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, and Skype are software solutions that have overturned Turkle’s meaning: together alone could be this year’s punch line. We have welcomed 2021 together, yet most in confinement. Embracing technology as 2020’s society-savior does come across as ironic, given technology is usually at fault for many social attitudes. But the year 2020 has brought insight to the understanding of technology and its proper use. It can be life-changing under certain circumstances – not just during the pandemic, but also for those experiencing isolation and loneliness.

Remain responsible (and digital)

Ultimately, all we can do now is remain hopeful, conscious, and active online – and that means staying healthy and protecting the people around us. As German chancellor Angela Merkel said, "Never have we greeted the new year with so much hope, despite all of our concerns and some skepticism. And so you and your families have my very best wishes for good health, confidence, and blessings in the New Year 2021.”

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