Hank O’Reilly sings at Open Stage on Saturday, Dec. 11 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Haliburton./DARREN LUM Staff

Connection is the strength we all need

By Darren Lum

As the winds wailed outside the Club Room at the Royal Canadian Legion in Haliburton, Essonville Hank belted out a tune of his own making about life here in Haliburton. He was one of several performers at the Open Stage event where people came to bare their soul and share their musical skills under the bright lights for a considerate crowd ready to have their senses tickled.
There’s an unmistakable power in a live event. Organized by the Haliburton County Folk Society, the Open Stage is an opportunity that comes around the second Thursday of each month. The price of admission is by donation, but the value in return is getting to engage with others in way that is close to magical. It’s energizing to be immersed in a room of applause, singing and the playing of musical instruments.
It was something I really didn’t know I needed until I experienced this past Saturday night, as high winds blew down trees, knocking out power for 50,000 in the Central region, which included Haliburton County. The energy inside never wavered from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m.

From just listening to the music, seeing the musician strum their guitar, beat their drum, tell a story between sets, and elicit a response of laughter or a groan, it’s truly something that can only be felt in-person.
When you feel the music in your chest it’s something that can’t be duplicated nor conveyed with a teleconferencing app such as Zoom. Yes, Zoom has become ubiquitous to life now, whether it’s for work meetings, or virtual parties with friends and family, but it’s only tolerated and not easy to embrace.
Being in a large group of people isn’t exactly high on my list of things to do, but with COVID-19 protocols in place such as mask wearing and proof of vaccination, the Club Room might as well have been Massey Hall.
I’m pretty tired of using Zoom. There’s even a term for it, Zoom fatigue.
Stanford researchers report video calls are tiring people out.
Four reasons for Zoom fatigue were cited: excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense; seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing; video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility; and cognitive load is much higher in video chats.
Possible solutions include not having your own image shown on-screen, reducing the size of the overall grid image, but primarily it’s about moving, creating distance from the screen and to take breaks from the screen. The prevailing solution is clear: We need to get away from Zoom and get outside and embrace opportunities for engagement, whether it’s an open mic night, or hitting the streets and taking in a conversation (at a safe physical distance) at the Jolly Jog, or seeing carollers in downtown Haliburton during Ladies Night.

With case numbers increasing in the province, we could be heading towards more restrictions to gathering. So, Zoom has its uses and has been a necessity. Earlier this year, Zoom reported they had more than 3.3 trillion annual meeting minutes.
It has enabled people separated by anything from a town to an ocean away to be able to communicate with each other. However, it does not connect in that way that benefits us the most. There is no substitute for in-person engagement when you can see a person’s reaction or hear the tone in their voice, expressing sadness or joy. Let’s not take the ones we love for granted. Let’s do our best for our neighbours, friends and family. See them … even if outside for minute. It could be the last time … we never know. Let’s reconnect and lift each other up, so we can carry on and move forward with life.