One of the few silver linings of the Covid-19 pandemic for me was the revitalization of my close-knit group of six friends who lived together in a beat-up old house during our senior year of college. Our weekly Gaffield Zoom call, named after the tree-lined street where our old house was situated, remains a fixture on my family calendar this summer even though it’s been a little harder to coordinate as everyone’s schedules are beginning to fill up again.
I have felt so grateful to reconnect regularly with this beloved group that had scattered across the country years ago. At this stage of our lives, our friendship has taken on a whole new dimension as we reminisce about the old days but also enhance our bond in current times. We connect over similar adult experiences and parenting, among other things. Between all of us, we have 16 kids and we are astounded that most of them have reached the age we were when we first met.
If we added up all the time we spent together on Zoom over the past 18 or so months, I have no idea how many hours that would total but it would definitely be a lot. Our discussions have covered Covid and Covid testing, sick parents and kids, politics, books, pet trials and tribulations, job stress and dislocation. We had Zoom birthday parties and surprise drop-in Zoom visits from other friends. We made predications about how the long the pandemic might last and when we would get our vaccines; all of those proved wildly incorrect, but this together time gave us the solace of knowing that we were not alone at a moment when we felt otherwise isolated, unsure and stuck in our homes.
Many of my acquaintances tell me they have also found great comfort during these difficult pandemic months in maintaining a habit of similar Zoom calls with groups of friends or family members. One friend swears she would never have won a coveted and high-level role at a burgeoning nonprofit without the wise counsel of her still-ongoing Sunday morning Zoom discussions with her dear friends from college.
Even so, I was saddened to learn that more than half of American men and women in my age range reported losing touch with friends during the pandemic. According to a recent survey from the Survey Center on American Life, a more heartening statistic was that nearly half of the respondents had made at least one new friend during the past 12 months.
Research shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that loneliness had reached crisis levels in the United States, even before the pandemic. I hope this summer, as the world continues to reopen, we can all find ways to strengthen and reconnect with old friendships, as well as to spark new ones. Our mental and physical well-being depend on it.