Social connectivity in a pandemic

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Life as we know it has been vastly transformed in the past few weeks, with most people around the world staying at home due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. International and domestic trips, businesses, events are all being cancelled in droves. It’s a stressful and anxious time for many people. Yet, the expression to ‘look for the helpers’ whenever a crisis occurs is an apt one in this situation. People are looking for social connectivity and ways to express kindness to others in practising social distancing under direction of medical experts.

Two teddy bears hugging in window (Getty images/AnnaElizabethPhotography)

In an age of internet connectivity, people are innovating to ensure that we can still be connected and that events which are cancelled in real life can proceed in a virtual setting. Here’s a short list out of an expanding stream of positive social movements occurring at the moment to compensate for the effects of the pandemic.

People are finding ways to connect despite the physical separation and this is evident in how Pub Choir, which is usually hosted at The Tivoli in Brisbane, became Couch Choir. Three videos were uploaded with three parts for participants to learn their part by singer and Pub Choir director, Astrid Jorgensen. Individuals recorded videos of them singing their part once perfected. The finished result is an amassed recording of over 1000 voices from 18 countries of Close to You. Other choirs like The Viral Choir have been undertaking similar activities.

On Facebook, several groups have sprung up for people to chat and connect during isolation. Quarantine with Jam and Clare is a group with around 5,000 members, spearheaded by public figures Jamila Rizvi and Clare Bowditch. The group has been hosting live events for people to gather including folding washing together, baking sessions and catch ups over tea. The space has become a haven of support and encouragement to others in strange times.

A group which now encompasses nearly 250,000 members, The Kindness Pandemic was created because the need was recognised for people to hear and participate in acts of kindness at this time. People are sharing stories of personal kindness that they have experienced, as well as media stories of kindness in this pandemic.

Several state-based groups across Facebook have formed under the title of Adopt a Healthcare Worker. These groups aim to provide support to medical professionals working on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals take on care for specific healthcare workers to provide support to, whether it be collecting mail, delivering groceries or whatever other support they might need. This will enable those healthcare workers to continue providing support on the frontline of the pandemic.

 

'If this period of time can teach us anything, it’s that collective consciousness for kindness, compassion and empathy is critical when we’re all adversely impacted by any crisis.'

 

In a similar vein, several mutual aid groups have formed with the explicit purpose of assisting people who are adversely impacted by this pandemic. These groups have the purpose of helping people to provide aid to those in need, seek aid, or share information and resources to help get through the pandemic.

Information about Australian mutual aid support groups can be found on Viral Kindness created by Get Up, with an aim to help people stay together, even if they’re physically apart. A comprehensive list of Australian mutual aid groups which have been springing up has been compiled by social worker and Twitter user, Hannah Erroneous (@TheMonaOgg).

Overseas, similar mutual aid initiatives have been springing up. In the UK, Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK has been established. In Canada, MTL COVID-19 Mutual Aid Mobilisation d'entriade has been established on Facebook, alongside at least 35 other groups, to serve multiple communities and to provide aid to those who need it under a Canadian trend which has been labelled ‘caremongering.’

There have been movements which have been created to assist people with disabilities or chronic illness to share resources and help each other manage the effects of the pandemic. On Facebook, the Disability and Chronic Illness COVID-19 Information Clearinghouse Australia offers a space to share information and resources within Australia for people with disability or chronic illness to help manage the impacts of the COVID-19 health emergency.

Over on Instagram, a movement has been created under #OperationASLStorytime for children who use ASL. This movement has been created after cancellations of face-to-face gatherings for children’s stories told using sign language. Instead, signers are using Instagram to share stories.

The arts have been disproportionately affected, sustaining heavy financial losses with live shows cancelled. Instead, artists have taken to online streams in hope of encouraging audiences to listen and to support them in this time.

A live-streamed music festival, Isol-Aid: An Instagram Live Music Festival was held on 21 to 22 of March with a series of artists performing in 20 minute blocks.

In the classical world, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra streamed live to lounge rooms on Monday 16 of March around the world from Hamer Hall, playing Bloch’s Schelomo and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Under a campaign with the tagline ‘keep the music going’, they streamed Beethoven’s 'Symphony No.7' on Thursday 19 of March. They have announced the intention to keep concerts going.

Fancy watching a musical? Got you covered! Check here for regular updates about what you can enjoy.

At this point, you might be thinking, other than watching virtual concerts, joining groups, providing mutual aid, what can you do to act with kindness and help others out right now?

There are systemic movements encouraging individuals to help the industries significantly impacted by the isolation measures of the pandemic. Try to shop using small businesses who may normally rely on physical markets for sales. This will help to keep them afloat until this period of isolation and shutdown ends. Look up your favourite businesses and see what they might be offering to help them continue operating through and beyond this period.

Additionally, a movement involving teddy bears has emerged across the country, with parents talking kids on walks in their neighbourhood which has been called ‘bear hunts.’ The bear hunt involves spotting teddy bears that people have put in their street-facing windows, gates, mailboxes and driveways. Put a teddy bear out for the delight of home-schooled children everywhere!

Finally, some things for parents who have children at home. A way to connect with nature during this time of isolation is to follow the Victorian Zoo live stream following their animals or spy on a koala or two via the Lone Pine Sanctuary koala-cams.

If this period of time can teach us anything, it’s that collective consciousness for kindness, compassion and empathy is critical when we’re all adversely impacted by any crisis. This requires a collective rather than individual response, although individuals have the agency to contribute to a collective response from their own homes.

Reach out to your family, friends, neighbours (virtually or with appropriate social distance) and be here for each other. Stay at home whenever you can for those who don’t have the immunity to fight COVID-19 and for the healthcare workers who have to be at their workplaces, on the frontline of the pandemic.

We’re all in this together, apart.

 

 

Jane BrittJane Britt is a National Policy Officer for Blind Citizens Australia, freelance writer and disability consultant for many organisations.

Main image: Two teddy bears hugging in window (Getty images/AnnaElizabethPhotography)

Topic tags: Jane Britt, COVID-19

 

 

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Existing comments

Long live creative, grass roots social initiatives, local and international!
John RD | 30 March 2020


We find a way, don't we! Lots of great information here for all interests. It is particularly important at this time for parents to use technology wisely to keep their kids entertained and enriched. And people with disabilities are never forgotten: when we talk about enriching lives they are at the coalface.
Pam | 30 March 2020


Thanks Jane, Very resourceful, high value for many and timely!
Wayne Sanderson | 30 March 2020


ABC TV to the rescue! It has just been announced that the ABC will provide curriculum-aligned tv sessions for children, financed initially by NSW and Victoria departments of education. Now, how about the Federal Government abandonning its anti-ABC stance and restoring funding to our national treasure?
Janet | 02 April 2020


Wonderful show of friendship, love and solidarity. Uplifting in a time of challenge and change
Mary Samara-Wickrama | 03 April 2020


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