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Virtual Communities – Creating Connections In A Digital Setting


When COVID-19 hit, we suddenly found ourselves isolated from friends, family, and co-workers. In response to this, many people turned to digital communication to stay connected while remaining physically apart. Online communities became vital to almost every aspect of our lives. From socializing, to working, to finding answers to the many questions that we had, the situation forced us to appreciate the benefits of these platforms.

Connect Anywhere

Many people had dinner with relatives on different continents during the pandemic. People reconnected with friends who had moved away. Reunions were held on zoom calls with people who hadn’t talked in years. Digital communities can globally unite us, regardless of border or place, allowing us to be together even when we’re apart.

The benefit extends to events as well. There are inconveniences and expenses involved with attending something physically. With digital conferences, you can join in from anywhere with nothing more than a phone. Even better, the people you connect with at those events won’t just be geographically related to you. You will be getting perspectives 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 purchase plane tickets and hotel rooms!”

Kaylee McHugh, CEO, and Co-Founder ChattyKathi

Digital for Good

The ease of digital connection led people to find new ways to provide support for one another. Groups like Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK sprung up online in response to the pandemic crisis, facilitating neighborhood relief responses to those in need, and thought leaders on important topics, like anti-racism, were able to amplify their teachings through platforms like Patreon. Even popular social networks like Nextdoor reported an increase in users interacting through it to support one another and Clubhouse exploded into the social media scene connecting us in a unique new way.

Barriers

Technology itself does present some barriers. Not everyone can afford the equipment needed to get online and find these communities and activities. However, with 48.3% of the world’s population and 85% of Americans owning a smartphone, that is becoming less of an issue. There are also concerns about accessibility for those with specific disabilities, which are an ongoing concern for tech companies and an opportunity for further innovation.

The Fun

One thing that most of us now have as a connection is that we’ve all heard someone say, “sorry, I was on mute.” We’ve all seen cats acting strangely in the background of a video call. We’ve all had people freeze mid-sentence with a crazy expression on their faces. Or maybe you were the one that froze. That shared connection is a language we all know, which unites us in a subtle but profound way.

Remote Work

Work environments are important social communities, but they were largely forced online. In some ways, workers welcomed this. In a 2019 Future of Work survey, 78% of respondents listed “flexible schedules and telecommuting” as the most important non-monetary benefit to them. Employees feel that remote work is an important benefit. This practice also allowed many companies the flexibility to continue working even after the pandemic hit.

Working from home seems to be a trend that’s here to stay. According to a poll of company leaders, 80% are going to allow employees to work remotely, at least partially, going forward, 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 we probably wouldn’t in a normal office setting or hiring situation. It takes a different kind of effort, but if we do it right, our workplaces can come out better than they were before.”

– Bo Morin, Software Development Manager at Industry Dive

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Conclusion

In a troubled year, we all found solutions. As the world continues to change, what will endure as part of the future of work? Digital communities seem to be a permanent fixture, as Zoom and other online platforms report continued growth. Moving forward, the goal should be to implement what we have learned about online communication to augment our relationships and continue to find new ways to connect.





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