A locking silver lining? Families closer than ever, in the midst of loneliness
Fiona Keele can’t wait to get the group together. Now it’s lockdown, she can.
Keele, 48, from Cheltenham, and her husband Richard, 41, decided the way to keep the family in touch last time around was to play trivia online with her in-laws. It worked. So, as soon as Acting Prime Minister James Merlino announced new stay-at-home restrictions, she booked to play.
It was not without challenges. Richard was in charge of scribing for the team. Richard’s dad can get a bit bossy. Yet they all come back for more. Twice trivia champions for the win.
Australians are learning face lock loneliness. According to new research from the Australian Institute, we are now much closer to our friends and families than ever before. Three in five Australians feel more connected with their friends and family in 2021 than in 2020.
Our ability to click and connect is strong, says Dan Donahoo, senior innovation manager at the Alannah and Madeline Foundation. As soon as the pandemic broke last year, Donahoo started This digital house, a project to document how Australian families have used technology to stay connected.
“The most asked question from families was, ‘We don’t see as many people as we normally see. How can we solve this problem? Donahoo said.
He says that as a result, parents had far fewer rules around screen time because they could see their kids using technology for good, to keep in touch with their friends. Donahoo also said that in some cases, families were using technology during the lockdown to reconnect with family members with whom connection had been lost.
Research from the Australian Institute also shows that we worry about what happens when the going gets tough. According to Andrew Giles, co-chair of Parliamentary Friends of the End of Solitude; and this is especially important for groups who may not have access to other resources, including First Nations people, those with different physical and mental needs, and those in remote and rural areas.
“Digital connection patterns have become important in tackling loneliness – support groups, online communities, even online choirs. . it also means that a lack of online connection can be a barrier for people who maintain social connections and [services],” he says.