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Dare to Do It “IRL”

I decided to offer my college students a choice: Meet me IRL (in real life) or on Zoom.

Honestly, I thought for sure our students were so used to the convenience of Zoom—that few would want to go through the trouble of traipsing across campus or driving in from home to meet in person. Boy, was I wrong.

Only 1 out of 6 students will opt for Zoom. 

I coach media and communication students at the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University and help launch them into their careers. It’s a job I love. I had no trouble coaching online, an adjustment the college made during the pandemic. It worked, sometimes even better than how we operated in person thanks to the ability to share screens and jump all over the internet together while doing some career exploration.

And yet, I realize now, that virtual experience feels somewhat muted and flat compared to that intangible wonderful full-blown experience of being in the same place and time. Having the ability to offer a real tissue if there are tears is something. Offering a safe place where you are not alone…that is something; it’s something important. It’s clear we crave it, that shared space, even if we think we don’t need it.

I’ve noticed students will share more in person. I can read them better without a screen between us. I can feel what’s unsaid sometimes. And, I’ll just say it: I’m certainly happier back in the office where ideas more organically spark with my colleagues and employees into action. I’m happier in front of live audiences where I can feel the joy and share the laughter in the room during an I Dare Me keynote.

To all those who say, “I don’t need to share office space” or “I need to be home to help with kids, and family and avoid traffic, parking, annoying co-workers”, sure I get it. But I’m pretty certain, with that virtual convenience, we are losing something.

A lot of something; a depth to our everyday life experience. I think my students know that intuitively. Even as they look for remote jobs, they choose in-person experiences, classes and learning. Some say the future is in virtual workspaces. Sure. Maybe. But, I think the jury is still out on that. It’s clear if it’s likely to be a positive experience in person, we’ll go through the trouble to seek it out IRL, just like my students do.

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