“Zoom – Just one look and then my heart went boom!”
You may be old enough to remember this very catchy song from the self-effacing Fat Larry and his band. I understood the lyrics in the 1980’s, as a mildly intense 21-year-old, to broadly mean, physical connections propel our emotions.
Fast forward 40 years and ‘ZOOM’ is everywhere! In January, I faintly recognised the term Zoom as an IT tool for visual communication. By March many of us had been on the Zoom proving ground of family or village quizzes. Men with no argument but with a voice of Brian Blessed, were winning Zoom debates just because they were just the loudest! 23-year olds with 2:2 degrees in Take That (the fallow years 2002-2003) were winning Cambridge University history quizzes thanks only to Google, out of vision, sat on their lap!
However, during this time, Zoom has apparently become the permanent answer to business. Some companies began to see record profits created by dramatically reduced expenditure. There was barely any travelling. No need to host expensive lunches. And ultimately with staff working from home – no office costs!
During the summer, Zoom potentially enabled 3 million Londoners to consider leaving overpriced housing in London, and head for the counties. By being able to live and work remotely from home, and with the need only for an infrequent commute, house prices in the Home Counties have soared. Especially even more so with the stamp duty holiday and people genuinely resetting their way of life. London prices on the other hand remain less certain.
Then consider the 6 million or so people who signed up to Matchmaker.com, looking to find permanent love. Many of these, unless they have changed the rules of socially distant meetings, are still at best, only able to develop blossoming relationships so far. Leaving them to try to and fathom cyber-based relationships.
It also makes you think as well, how families will interact and spend time together. Will we see Grandparents physically meet their grandchildren before they reach their first birthday? Or are we going to have to sustain our family bonds over Zoom as well? Let’s hope not!
COVID has amongst many other things thrown up the debate of it creating a great big social experiment that I am sure will be monitored analysed and talked about for decades to come. The financial markets will continue to act as the barometer of how we all react, and how the economy performs. In the last six months, we have seen investment managers, quite correctly, hot foot it over to communication-based IT stocks and pharmaceuticals linked to health care. Meanwhile, shares in travel and hospitality have been laid bare.
In a week that has seen announcements that have created the first shoots of optimism around a COVID vaccine, the tide seems to be changing. People, although cautious, are beginning to think about travelling again. The Spring of 2021 is ahead of us and people are thinking about when they will be able to mix with others without significant prohibition. As humans, down to our base instincts, we are herd animals and thrive on social interactions.
2020 will be a year that we will be glad to see the back of. It will also be a year we will not forget. With a year of such restraint both socially and financially, will 2021 become a year know for over consumption as we look to make up for lost time? Human life does have the remarkable ability to adjust to radical events, and come out the other end better for the lessons we have learnt.
As 2020 begins to draw to a thankful close, there is the big question remaining of ‘are we heading toward a permanent social adjustment in our social dynamics – changing our lives forever?‘ Personally, I like to believe in Fat Larry. I do think that ‘just one look’ can make your heart go boom! I think we need social interaction – we like, and more importantly need, a good gossip about the Boss whilst standing at the photocopier. We need to see the whites of the eyes before signing a deal or more crucially meet the person we are falling in love with.
Before you decide that society will be better served by a virtual world, please go to Spotify and listen to the wise words of Fat Larry!
Zoom and similar technology has revolutionised our options of how we socially interact both in business and socially. But I think we should be careful to ensure it is an option that should only be used in context and not as a replacement when a good old eye to eye cannot be replaced.
Tony Smith – Group Managing Director