Now, like countless people around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust everyone’s lives into a virtual space. The unprecedented explosion of their use in response to the pandemic has launched an unofficial social experiment, showing at a population scale what’s always been true: virtual interactions can be extremely hard on the brain.

Humans communicate even when they’re quiet. During an in-person conversation, the brain focuses partly on the words being spoken, but it also derives additional meaning from dozens of non-verbal cues, such as whether someone is facing you or slightly turned away, if they’re fidgeting while you talk, or if they inhale quickly in preparation to interrupt.

One of the outcomes of this pandemic requiring all of us to stay home, is that it has forced us to utilize technology we could have otherwise happily avoided. Even in our personal lives, we’ve seen relatives having to learn about Zoom or Facebook livestream in order to attend religious services or visit with family.

Workers (of all ages) who had been reluctant to learn new technology before the pandemic, had no choice but to adapt if they wanted to work. In some ways, the quarantine also provided plenty of time and patience to practice.

One of the outcomes of this pandemic requiring all of us to stay home, is that it has forced us to utilize technology we could have otherwise happily avoided. Even in our personal lives, we’ve seen relatives having to learn about Zoom or Facebook livestream in order to attend religious services or visit with family.