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Schizoid personality disorder can be one of the consequences of COVID-19

I am 50 years old and I consider myself a member of the analogue meeting planner generation. Before the pandemic hit, I had a pretty orderly life and a healthy relationship towards events. I have two sons, a happy marriage and a profession that fulfils and excites me. I try to exercise quite often, I don’t smoke, I drink moderately, like to eat quality food and avoid sugar. From the looks of it, everything is perfectly fine. Except for one problem.

My problem is a chronic lack of live events. I wake up every day, wishing for there to be a live event in my schedule. I find it quite challenging to wake up knowing I won’t be able to attend a concert or organise a conference any time soon. Regardless of how much I sleep, I always seem to wake up tired, dragging myself through the day, thinking about when we will be able to #meetagain.

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I am bombarded with virtual event invitations on a daily basis. I try to attend as many as I can, but I often turn off my web camera feeling disappointed. What I’m missing is SMELL, TASTE, TOUCH, NETWORKING and PERSONAL CONTACT.

I organised a couple of successful virtual events these past few weeks actually. I spent hours checking all of the offers from webinar providers that kept flooding my inbox before I landed on a service I liked. Bloggers are writing about the numerous benefits of virtual events and CEO’s are going on about how much money they will save because of these new tools. No more travel expenses, booking accommodation and exorbitant registration fees. A neoliberal paradise on earth. Our blue marble will also get some rest from our industry. I tried monetizing my webinars but did not really find a suitable solution. When you put a paywall in front of your content, most people that attended the free version vanish. Professional virtual event systems require quite an investment and solutions that are seen as a shortcut have an array of flaws. We are reinventing ourselves that’s it.

I realise that we need to be looking for alternative solutions in total event lockdown. Virtual events are certainly one of those alternatives. These solutions have existed before the pandemic and will continue to develop in the future. What I can not understand are statements from different sources saying the meetings industry will become extinct and live events are a thing of the past. Suggesting different solutions that will bury classical meetings has become a competition among members of the industry in the past few weeks. There is one thing that colleagues keep forgetting; just like classical events, virtual events need to be carefully planned out in order for them to bring the same level of interactivity and digestibility. Moreover, for them to bring appropriate ROI requires a lot of creativity. Mastering a programming language is simply not enough to carry out a successful virtual event. Great meeting planners possess a very specific set of tools that they have developed over the course of their careers. If virtual event planning ever becomes a profession, this new breed of #eventprofs will have a lot to learn.

In the flood of articles talking about the benefits of virtual events, I am missing some more critical, in-depth research on the reality of such solutions for our industry. The radically-thinking part of my brain has come to the conclusion that the end result of virtual events is alienated individuals, an automated puppet-like society and losing touch with reality. Don’t get me wrong. The virtual and live world can co-exist in excellent harmony, as proven by the countless apps and solutions that are making our lives easier.

Nothing can replace authentic, deep interpersonal relationships that we create in person. Technology will never satisfy our basic need of socialising no matter how attractive everything sounds on paper. I am afraid that virtual events will raise a socially-distant person. Someone who finds social contacts stressful and would rather avoid them. You would not want to hire an employee with those symptoms right? Do we want our society to turn into a bunch of unperceptive citizens without a voice following fake news from their leaders?

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Schizoid personality disorder is a real thing, characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships and a tendency toward a solitary life. Virtual events and isolation could lead to schizoid symptoms, emotional coldness, detachment and apathy. This is something that we have already seen happen with excessive use of social media. Maybe these are just human features that some European countries find ordinary, but for the emotion-fueled Balkans, it is something completely anomalous.

Compared to live events being cancelled, going virtual is the best option, but this simply can not provide the same authenticity. Remain critical and don’t fall for all the promises of online events that are being served to you by tech companies on a silver platter. Let us all strive to bring back more pure eye-to-eye contact instead of spending hours on virtual events. Some people have become so distanced that they are afraid to look you in the eye or smile sincerely, let alone share some honest thoughts on feelings or needs.

What happens when nothing can motivate you, excite you and all methods for self-improvement go up in smoke?

We have to fight for our beloved meetings industry in order for the ban of events to be withdrawn as soon as possible. A weird paradox is happening in Slovenia; Mass is allowed and events are cancelled. I can not shake the thought that a virtual community is much easier to control than a bunch of unhappy protesters on the streets or a group of like-minded people at live events.

Will be back live soon! Really soon!