7 Apr 2020 | 5 min read
Why Community Matters
With more people working from home and practicing social distancing, a lot of attention has been given to our need to connect.
Humans are social creatures. We crave meaningful interactions. And it’s not a matter of personal preference or whether you are an introvert or extrovert. There is a distinction between loneliness and solitude. We all need significant connections.
Why does a community matter?
GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH
According to Stanford researcher Dr. Emma Seppala, connectedness helps you live longer, fight off disease, makes you nicer, and less likely to be depressed. In her article for Stanford Medicine, she stresses the importance of quality versus quantity in relationships. A person with 2,000 Facebook friends may still experience loneliness due to the low quality of the connections. While a person with as few as five might never feel alone. Meaning if you feel connected, it doesn’t matter if you have 1 or 1,000 friends. You still reap the benefits of connection.
Social withdrawal can be pretty harmful. There’s a reason captors often use isolation as a means of torture for prisoners of war. Research shows that social isolation rivals such medical issues as high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, or smoking cigarettes as a risk factor for illness and early death. Some studies even suggest that perceived loneliness can switch on/off genes that regulate our immune systems.
GOOD FOR YOUR CREATIVITY
Research shows that a community can be useful for your creativity. Some of the most noticeable pros are 1) a broad exposure to knowledge from others, 2) mutual learning, 3) more flexibility, and 4) complex solutions.
There’s a reason some of the most creative organizations in the world, such as Google, Disney, and Apple consistently put out fresh offerings. They have teams of people adding their expertise and ideas to the mix.
GOOD FOR YOUR PRODUCTIVITY
According to the Harvard Business Review, positive work environments are partly attributed to a healthy community (i.e., behaviors such as caring for, trusting, encouraging, avoiding blaming, forgiving, and staying connected to coworkers), which in turn leads to higher productivity. One of the main reasons being, employees value feelings of acceptance and inclusion. People can tolerate even stressful changes in their environment if they feel connected.
HOW TO BUILD DISTANCED COMMUNITY
The term “social distancing” doesn’t really describe what’s been happening in our world. Yes, we are physically distancing to keep germs at bay, but we’ve become more social than ever.
In fact, Social Media Today reports that app usage has increased by 20% in the United States alone. And this trend is a global movent, with app surging in Italy by 30%, France 15%, and Germany 10% according to App Annie. The biggest apps worldwide? TikTok, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, and WeChat.
Staying connected regardless of the distance is much easier with all the technology currently available. Below are a few ways to build community during stay-at-home orders (and beyond).
- Keep a schedule. Sticking to a routine is vital during a crisis, according to this article in the Washington Post. Structure, predictability, and a sense of purpose are all benefits of following a routine (even if that routine is new).
- Use the same technology. Keep things simple by using the same tech each time you connect. Not only will it help people feel more comfortable, but it also helps in establishing those critical routines. It’s one less thing to learn, one less thing to add to the uncertainty.
- Create reminders. Following up and connecting with coworkers, friends, and loved ones can seem overwhelming. Try scheduling calendar reminders to reach out to a different group or friend each week. You’ll feel accomplished and connected, while also maintaining limits with your time and energy.
- Set healthy boundaries. One of the downsides to technology is the constant access. Yes, your tribe should know you are there for them, and they can reach you in an emergency whenever they need you. But they should understand you also have boundaries in place to practice self-care and be at your best for your family.
- Allow for awkwardness. Many people are experimenting with brand new tech for the first time. Have a friend who steadily cuts into the conversation on Google Hangouts? A coworker who isn’t sure when it’s their turn to speak on Zoom, so there are long awkward pauses? Or a family member who can’t seem to stay in the frame during a FaceTime call? Lean into it. We are diving into unchartered waters. No one is an expert. Allow for the awkward moments and embrace them.
We are in the midst of a historical era of shared traumatic experience. We need each other more than ever. Do your best to reach out to those close to you by continuing to build community. Remember, it isn’t about the quantity (both the number of connections or time spent with those connections). It’s about the quality. Make each moment count. Invest in people. Show them you care, that you are genuinely listening, and that you are there for them.