How a social media skeptic uses TikTok to connect with family

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One of my favorite things about working at Zapier is our flexible work culture. We aren’t tethered to our desks or devices 24/7, or even from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in our time zone, as long as we communicate our work schedules and deliver on our commitments.

It’s great, but it doesn’t come naturally. Learning to communicate asynchronously takes effort. It means learning to talk and work together without depending on real-time feedback. It’s an essential remote work skill.

Turns out it’s also a really great skill for the rest of my life.

Against always-on

Asynchronous communication deliberately pushes back on the idea that all responses are needed right now. This stands in stark contrast to our always-on culture, which feels like it’s constantly trying to demand too much of me. Just because someone messaged me about what’s important to them right now doesn’t mean it’s important to me right now—and vice versa. As long as I have a good system in place to manage follow-up, I don’t need to respond right away.

My general aversion to “always-on” shows up in my personal life too. I don’t tend to do a good job of keeping up with the people I care about. My tendency as an adult, so far, is to shrink the world of relationships I maintain. While I generally feel good about this approach, every once in a while something happens that pushes me out of my status quo. Sometimes, I need new ways to communicate. And recently, I turned to asynchronous communication in my personal life.

How private TikTok videos help me connect with my nephew

This summer, my four-year-old nephew, JB, stayed with us for a few weeks. I have a knack for bonding with kids, and JB was no exception. Over the course of the visit, we bonded over reading, music, play, and oh so much PJ Masks.

After JB left, his mom recorded a video of him paging through our favorite book and reciting it out loud from memory. He was mimicking the way I would read the book to him—I’m still trying to gather my melted heart off of the floor.

I quickly realized how connected I felt with him via video and decided it was time for me to dust off my TikTok account and apply some asynchronous communication skills to keeping in touch with JB.

Example: JB loves the song “Believer”by Imagine Dragons, and I added an astronaut filter because why not? When your audience is a four-year-old, it’s easier to just have fun.

I’ve done a bunch of these: a spot-on impression of PJ Robot (robot voice effect on), me breathing fire because The Floor is Lava, the list goes on.

Amazing concepts and filters aside, JB loves it when I send him a video. He gets all excited and asks his mom to play them over and over again. And when we talk in person or over video chat, he’ll reference the videos. That tells me they stick around in his mind, which melts my heart all over again.

It can be hard to make time to catch up with our loved ones, no matter how pure our intentions may be. And if you’re an introvert like me, synchronous communication can be so draining that it will rarely make the top of your priority list. So why not give low-pressure asynchronous communication a try?

For me, it was videos. For you, it could be an email or even a handwritten letter. It might seem like an obvious point, but it’s one I know I forget a lot: you can keep in touch with people without it being constant. Keep this in mind.

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