How the pandemic decimated our social lives (Ricky Weekly #44)

This is where I share 3 things every week with my friends and anyone else interested.

A picture from my life:

Today I had my first outdoor dining experience.

Thing on my mind:

Random thoughts on how Covid-19 decimated our social lives (aka why I think I often feel lonely)

  • A lot of texting and DMing happens during commute and in-between time when moving between spaces. We don’t do that anymore so people are not as responsive.

  • Social engagements tend to start with one person’s hunger or desire to blow off steam from work with a drink, but eating and drinking alone is not acceptable so we invite friends. On the flip and less cynical side, if you genuinely want to hang out with someone, the easiest thing to plan is still a meal or a drink, and that’s no longer easy, so now we just do nothing.

  • Zooms are pure conversations in a very controlled environment. Your face is right there looking at the camera with pressure to talk. That rarely happens in real life and could be intimidating. Phone calls or a Facetimes where there’s no expectation to aim the phone at your face are better. Playing games over Zoom helps, but games are getting repetitive and are still relatively controlled. My friend who runs a dating service told me that people who were good at real life dates are now just as bad as everyone else when it’s just Zoom, which I think supports my theory. Environmental variables are hugely important for socializing.

  • People are working harder because there’s no work-life separation. Everyone’s still new to remote work so they don’t know how to do it, leading to a ton more work. They also have to work on their children, partner, the house, etc. so they simply can’t keep up.

  • It’s hard to feel social when there’s a lot of pandemic-induced anxiety and economic uncertainty.

Random startup thoughts

  • Was chatting with a friend about Cameo. In the early days of social media there were ideas like Cameo to monetize fame directly. Klout probably was the best at it, but the idea felt too icky. Maybe people are more okay monetizing social media fame now or maybe Cameo’s focus on Hollywood C and D-list fame is different from social influencer fame in that people value Hollywood more because it’s less commoditized.

  • I’ve been doing startups long enough that I’m starting to see the “everything old is new again” thing now too. I haven’t seen a bust of the overall economy though, at least not as a working professional. Unfortunately that’s just around the corner.

  • Useful advice for startups is to try to nail a use case first, however narrow, and then go from there. But sometimes you think “oh this is too narrow.” Two startups I thought were too narrow but then surprised me were DoNotPay and HomeCourt. DoNotPay started by helping you fight parking tickets. HomeCourt tracked your basketball jumpshot. Both were great but I didn’t think there’s much of a business or room for expansion. I might be wrong now since DoNotPay just raised another $12M and HomeCourt became the only cool app in town for the NBA and is now pushing soccer training in addition to basketball.

  • I tried Mmhmm, a new presentation tool from the founder of Evernote, and I liked it. I feel like they made some good initial decisions to allow more freedom for users to give interesting presentation online, but not so much freedom that users feel encumbered by the possibilities.

  • The latest product I’ve been building with David has been described as enabling dinner table conversations in an app, which I’m happy about. A friend recently said to me that our “culture wars” used to happen in classrooms, dinner tables, barbershops, PTAs, and other physical spaces, but they’re now all online. The problem with our digital spaces is that they all suck at holding tension. Maybe our app Palcast could be a digital space that does a better job of that.

Random pandemic thoughts

  • Covid-19 hit some of my closest friends and their families, which was just a matter of time but I’m sad, scared, and angry.

  • Early on during shelter-in-place, I heard from some friends and noticed in myself that I had less time to listen to podcasts because there’s no more commute. This week I heard from some friends that they’re listening to more podcasts because they want to hear humans talk in the background while they work or just to be less alone.

  • OH: “I bet cemeteries are killing it right now”

Piece of content I recommend:

The Last Black Man in San Francisco by Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails

This film was on my watchlist for a while and I finally watched it this weekend. Great, great movie. Especially great because it started out on Kickstarter and was the debut film of two SF natives who grew up together but on opposite sides of the tracks.

The film beautifully captured parts of the city that most people don’t see, like where I live in Bayview / Hunter’s Point but is also critical of people like me who are transplants that love to complain about the city’s dysfunction. In the movie, the main character Jimmie Fails told some white girls on the MUNI complaining about the city, “You don’t get to hate it unless you love it.” I was shooked. That’s right. Do I love the city as much as this guy does? This film made me love SF a little more.


As always, you can find out what I’m thinking in more real-time on Twitter and my essays are on my website. My latest essay is called From Socialcam to TikTok: How we figured out video social in a decade