By Dom Cioffi
My company had a meeting at the office last week with all the staff. I believe this was the first time since March 2020 (pre-Covid) that we were all in the building at the same time.
Initially, I loved working from home. I found the solitude relaxing and noticed my workload increasing, so it seemed like a win-win situation for me and my business.
But then, over time, I started to ache for human interaction. I wouldn’t have thought that was possible given my penchant for solitude, but I could tell that the lack of human contact was having a negative effect on my behavior. It was subtle, but noticeable, and it manifested as low-level anxiety that wouldn’t go away.
To alleviate this, I started going back to the office once or twice a week. There were usually a handful of like-minded colleagues who also needed camaraderie. Interestingly, I noticed that most people who showed up were 40+; my younger colleagues didn’t seem to need the physical connections.
Eventually, I got used to the pattern of being home alone several days a week, then occasionally returning to the office with a few other people. Routine has set in and the new normal has officially taken hold. And it’s been like that for more than two years.
I guess I was excited about this recent reunion, knowing that we would all be together having those classic conversations about water coolers and lunchtime laughs. However, the experience was not what I expected.
First, you could feel the anxiety. People weren’t shaking hands or standing close in the hallway much, and when the occasional coughing occurred, people could be seen to physically recoil. At first I thought it was me, then a colleague pulled me aside and asked if I was having a weird vibe.
The company brought lunch around noon and we all gathered in our large meeting space. It helped get people back into the rhythm and eased some of the tension. We ended up having some good laughs and lots of fun.
After lunch we had several team meetings and by 3 p.m. everyone was visibly exhausted. The reality of being “on” all day had taken its toll.
That’s when the new dude mentioned he had a set of VR goggles in his car. He had spoken out during a chat on the Metaverse and admitted he was addicted to gaming in virtual spaces. This led to a slew of questions (many of them from me) about what this new world was like.
After a little nudge, he got out to his car and came back with the glasses. He spent a few minutes setting things up, then turned to me and asked if I was ready.
The truth is, I’ve always been curious about virtual reality, but I deliberately stayed away because I didn’t want to open Pandora’s box. I spend a lot of time on my computer for work. The last thing I need is a spare time hobby that keeps me even more connected.
I was immediately surprised by the realism. I knew VR had come a long way, but it was awesome. I wandered around a city dodging traffic for a while and finally took an elevator up to 50 floors. When the doors opened, all that was visible was a plank of wood hanging from the side of the building.
I knew that was wrong; I knew nothing bad could happen to me. And yet, my legs were shaking as I moved forward on the board. I tried to watch the passing birds but felt intensely dizzy. My colleague told me to get off the board and my legs literally wouldn’t.
I finally stepped aside and started to fall to the ground. All I can tell you is that the fall was as realistic as anything I’ve ever experienced.
I took off the glasses and handed them to my colleague, then sat down in my chair with an uneasy stomach. My experience with virtual reality was intense and interesting, but now I am even more convinced that I am fully satisfied with the real world.
This week’s feature, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ is one of those films that will also make you queasy, but in this case it’s down to the penetrating realism depicted in this WWI epic. .
Based on the same book that was made into an Oscar-winning film in 1930, this version uses modern technology to fully immerse the viewer in the horrors of war while criticizing the ideological wasteland of nationalism.
Check this one out if you enjoy the war genre, just be prepared for some harsh and deplorable realities.
An all too real “B” for “All Quiet on the Western Front”, now available for streaming on Netflix.
Have a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]
#Reality #Bites #Mountain #Times