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Virtual Everything

The year has been unprecedented. COVID-19 restrictions have meant cancellations, postponements, changes in business practices, changes in behaviours. One of the biggest changes has been the increase in the use of technological solutions. Everything has become virtual.

This week should have seen the 50th anniversary of the Glastonbury Festival, however, along with music festivals across the world, this event was cancelled in March. 130,000 people camping in a field in the middle of a pandemic was definitely a no-go.


130,000 people obviously disappointed, along with the millions who would have watched Diana Ross, Elbow and Sinead O'Connor, among many others, playing live in the fields of Somerset.


As happened with the Eurovision Song Contest, Grand National, and the Isle of Wight Festival, these events have gone virtual online and on TV. Broadcasters and organisers are doing their best, but it is not really the same. We even have out of sync, awful Virtual crowd noise for sporting events behind closed doors.


Similarly, I wonder whether the initial novelty of Zoom, FaceTime, Skype and MS Teams meetings is wearing off on people. Certainly it seems that meetings over an hour long are causing some to tire, switch off, or get side tracked into doing something else.

Virtual meetings have kept many businesses - and individuals - going during the lockdown, but there are limits. Humans are social animals.


It's great to know everyone is well, but do virtual meetings show everything? Like social media, it is easy to hide feelings and emotions when meeting virtually. There will never be anything like meeting someone face to face.


Virtual pub quizzes have become a new trend. They are great in lockdown, as a virtual social event, and for all the family. But nothing can beat a pub quiz in an actual pub.


Limits on numbers allowed in a pub when they reopen in a few weeks time will probably mean the virtual pub quiz may have to continue for some time yet, but at least we are moving in the right direction.


This weekend the BBC is showing the best of Glastonbury from the previous 49 years. Some streaming music services are playing the acts that would have played on various stages at the times they would have appeared this year. There are going to be many virtual Glastonbury Festivals from the comfort of our homes. But it won't be the same. No mud baths, no tents, no buzz, no actual live music.


I for one cannot wait for reruns of the Dolly Parton set on the TV, but more importantly, I cannot wait to see the festivals live again, the network meetings in a room again, to see friends and family again in reality.


Virtual has its place, and has been a lifesaver. But actual reality is much better than virtual reality, especially for our mental health and wellbeing.


As Hilary Clinton once said, "I like live audiences, with real people - virtual reality is no substitute." I tend to agree.


The COVID-19 restrictions have been an interesting and essential experiment in human behaviours. But it has proved one thing. We humans need personal interaction.


Virtual interaction has helped in a time of crisis, but it cannot be a permanent solution.



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