Virtual Communities – Creating Connections in a Digital Environment
When COVID-19 hit, we suddenly found ourselves isolated from our friends, family and colleagues. In response to this, many people have turned to digital communication to stay connected while remaining physically separate. Online communities have become vital for almost every aspect of our lives. From socializing at work, to finding answers to the many questions we were asking ourselves, the situation forced us to appreciate the advantages of these platforms.
Many people dined with relatives on different continents during the pandemic. People reconnected with friends who had moved. Meetings were held over zoom calls with people who hadn’t spoken in years. Digital communities can unite us globally, regardless of border or location, allowing us to be together even when we are apart.
The benefit also extends to events. There are inconveniences and expenses associated with participating in something physically. With digital conferencing, you can participate from anywhere with nothing more than a phone. Best of all, the people you connect with at these events won’t just be geographically related to you. You will get views and ideas from a global audience.
“I love that we can all learn and share our experiences from anywhere in the world, even if we don’t have the money to buy plane tickets and hotel rooms!”
– Kaylee mchugh, CEO and co-founder of ChattyKathi
Digital for good
The ease of digital connection has led people to find new ways to support each other. Groups like Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK arose online in response to the pandemic crisis, facilitating neighborhood relief responses to those in need, and opinion leaders on important topics, such as anti-racism, were able to amplify their lessons through platforms such as than Patreon. Even popular social networks like Nextdoor have reported a increase in users interacting through it to support each other and Clubhouse has exploded into the social media scene connecting us in a unique new way.
The technology itself presents certain obstacles. Not everyone can afford the equipment necessary to access the Internet and find these communities and activities. However, with 48.3% of the world’s population and 85% of Americans owning a smartphone, this is becoming less and less of a problem. There are also accessibility concerns for people with specific disabilities, which are a constant concern for tech companies and an opportunity for further innovation.
One thing most of us connect with now is we’ve all heard someone say, “Sorry, I was on silent.” We’ve all seen cats behaving strangely in the background of a video call. We’ve all had people frozen in the middle of a sentence with a crazy expression on their faces. Or maybe you were the one who froze. This shared connection is a language we all know, which unites us in subtle but deep ways.
Work environments are important social communities, but they have been largely forced online. In some respects, the workers welcomed this. In a 2019 The future of work In the survey, 78% of those surveyed said that ‘flextime and telecommuting’ were the most important non-cash benefits for them. Employees see remote working as an important benefit. This practice has also enabled many companies to continue working even after the outbreak of the pandemic.
Working from home looks like a trend that is going to last. According to a survey of business leaders, 80% will allow employees to work remotely, at least partially, in the future, with 47% planning to allow them to work digitally full-time.
“We’re in a unique situation that allows us to use the tools at our disposal to better connect with people that we probably wouldn’t be in a normal office environment or a hiring situation. It takes a different kind of effort, but if we do it right, our workplaces can come out better than they used to be. “
– Bo Morin, head of software development at Industry Dive
In a troubled year, we have all found solutions. As the world continues to change, what will last in the future of work? Digital communities appear to be a permanent fixture as Zoom and other online platforms report continued growth. Going forward, the goal should be to apply what we have learned about communicating online to increase our relationships and continue to find new ways to connect.