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Friday, October 23, 2020

Covid + Big Social: The End Of Communities?

Humans are hardwired to connect. People don’t just want, but need to meet people. And we can’t anymore, because spaces for real connection are disappearing. 

Our physical spaces for real connection, striking up unfiltered, off-the-record conversations at a bar, coffeeshop, a concert, a meetup, a conference, the office, have been eliminated by Covid-19. Our virtual spaces, so-called “social networks” (what I call Big Social), are anything BUT social. A study by Data & Society found that  41 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 29 said they censor themselves to avoid being harassed. Self-censorship on social media has become such a phenomenon that there’s a name for it: “The Spiral of Silence”.

On average, each of us meets more than 10,000 people in our lifetime. The stranger you hold the door open for. The grocery attendant who helps you check out. The person you sit next to on a train / plane / lyft who you strike up a conversation with. All the coworkers you meet in your office. Colleagues in meetings. Business contacts at networking events. New friends at concerts, parties, your friend’s birthday brunch. Dates at restaurants and bars. Some of these connections are ephemeral. Some become your partner. The father of your children. Your friend. Your business partner. 

The writing has been on the wall for decades now. No more doors to open for someone else; “caution! Doors open automatically!”. Self-checkout in grocery stores, and now no-contact deliveries. No more conversations with strangers – everyone on their own devices, head down, no eye contact. No dates, just swipe right on tinder. Tech and social apps that made things more efficient, more transactional, more convenient, have also made us less human. In this world, we’re not meeting people. We’re zooming right past them. 

Covid-19 has just accelerated what was already coming. A world divided into tiny silos. Each of us in our own compartments, carefully operating within our own lanes. Confined to our own virtual worlds. Filtered, censored, silenced. It’s no wonder more than 50% of America reports being lonely and having no one to talk to.

We need a new place to connect. One where we can be social, not stifled. Where we can spark connections and strike up conversations that remind us of what it means to be human. 

There’s a new wave coming (I hope). Of community leaders, entrepreneurs, social innovators that are imagining new ways for communities to not just survive, but thrive. My attempt at contributing to this movement is building twine. A place where you can have real conversations with others in communities you care about. Not posts, not likes, not shares – real 1-to-1 conversations, off-the-record, to get to know each other without fear or judgment. A place where community leaders can create space for their members to get what they want most: talk, get-to-know, learn from, support each other. Are you working on this? Love to hear what you’re building and join forces.

Communities, conversations, and real connections are what makes us human. They’re worth fighting for. Join us?

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