Toban Dyck: Redefining face-to-face contact

The tech we’ve been forced to adopt is actually useful

There’s no substitute for face-to-face contact. I have believed in this adage for a long time. I felt it was a good perspective to balance the trend among younger generations that have trouble picking up a phone or going to someone’s house.

Also, it’s often the default argument in favour of going to a conference versus not going to a conference. Yes, you could call that person on the phone, but to meet-up with him or her between when the bar opens and the banquet dinner begins often yields more meaningful conversations. You may meet additional people and the direction of the conversation may veer in unplanned and beneficial directions.

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What’s the point of new experiences if we are not allowed to change our minds, right? You wake up, open a door labelled “normal life” and you do that time and time again.

Then, a pandemic occurs. You grumble a bit about government response, because that’s what farmers do (and really need to work on, but that’s for another column), but the first doorway you walk through in the morning is no longer “normal life.” It’s “unknown” now.

It has been hard. It really has. To say otherwise would be to belittle how difficult it is to spend so much time inside your own head, wrestling with the fear of realizing just how vulnerable we are and how fragile and unnecessary our existence really is.

Out of this, however, I’ve learned a few things. One of them is that the technologies available to most people are actually not built to handle all the users to which they advertise. The other is that video conferencing is actually a satisfactory way to communicate.

Zoom used to be a thing that only certain organizations used to have meetings. I would receive the link, and I would have decided long in advance to turn my video camera off, quickly clicking the camera icon before the green light on my laptop turns on. At this time, all of my other conference meetings would be via phone. That’s how I was used to doing things, and I wasn’t about to change that.

That has changed for me. A Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers board member video-called me on WhatsApp the other day. And I took the call. I was in the machine shed cross-referencing tractor hours with our service logbook to see which ones, if any, required oil and filter changes.

It turned out to be handy. I was having trouble finding the hour meter on one of our machines, and he could help me.

If what makes face-to-face contact so meaningful is the full sensory experience that accompanies it, then video conferencing comes pretty close to checking all the same boxes.

It’s nice to see other faces. It’s nice to see people in their home offices or wherever they decide to take their calls from. It’s nice to see people’s mannerisms, their kids being disruptive or running back and forth in front of the camera.

I have taken video conference calls in our workshop while doing farm work.

More so, though, I have appreciated how being forced to become familiar with this new technology has created routines that I’ll continue after face-to-face contact is allowed to take place without restrictions.

I was checking the moisture levels of one of my fields before seeding and I was able to video-call my dad and walk around the field showing him what I was seeing. That was valuable. It was tech available before COVID-19, but I wouldn’t have thought to use it.

At Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers, we are wrestling with how to engage with growers during this COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not easy to determine what ways farmers prefer and find the most engaging.

I stand by that nothing can replace face-to-face contact, but I have appreciated the tech and communication practices COVID-19 has pushed me to become familiar with. I think these new routines will stick and augment life once restrictions lift and the civil liberties we were once familiar with become available to us again.

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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