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Lost for words: How to keep in touch when there's not much to talk about

Our conversations have moved online and increasingly, there's less to discuss, as Covid-19 slows down our lives. But it's still possible to keep the lines of communication open, writes Claire O'Mahony

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Video calls are widely acknowledged to be physically and emotionally draining

Video calls are widely acknowledged to be physically and emotionally draining

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Skype

Skype

Skype

Skype

Video calls are widely acknowledged to be physically and emotionally draining - the so-called 'Zoom fatigue'

Video calls are widely acknowledged to be physically and emotionally draining - the so-called 'Zoom fatigue'

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Video calls are widely acknowledged to be physically and emotionally draining

During the initial days of lockdown, conversations became our lifeline. In the absence of normal social interaction, the whole gamut of telecommunications allowed us to check in with everyone and share our experiences. Friends who hadn't spoken in a while reached out to each other, and texting your ex became a well-documented pandemic phenomenon. It also became increasingly difficult to keep track of how many WhatsApp groups you were now expected to take part in.

While being thankful of the technology that enables all of these quarantine colloquies, it's natural that this hyper-communication has also caused weariness. Video calls are widely acknowledged to be physically and emotionally draining - the so-called 'Zoom fatigue' - and, for some people, they're now approaching the stage where it feels like there's nothing left to say and conversations are more like box ticking. Even if our lives weren't wildly exciting before, they provided far more scope for topics to chat about. Now the repertoire has been reduced to what route our new 5km walk might take, what we're eating and how awful our hair is. We have no news and little to talk about that isn't more of the same, although we can also be grateful if one of our largest concerns relates to the next Netflix choice and nothing more sinister. But as Irish people, with our strong oral tradition and purported gift of the gab, this feels like strange territory to find ourselves in.

If conversations can now feel strained, we shouldn't be surprised. Dublin-based psychologist Dr Daragh Keogh observes that a certain amount of the talking that we do when we're together is phatic, or communication that serves a social function rather than an informative one. "We're making noises but really we're communicating that we value being together," he says. "When you're not physically together and touching base by Skype instead for example, which is face-on with direct eye contact and looking at the screen, it's all a little bit more in the spotlight and it might make you more self-conscious. You might realise that what you're saying isn't very substantive, something you're much less aware of when you're talking socially.