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Community in a Time of COVID-19

April 30, 2020
By Rachel O'Malley

Humans are notoriously bad at anticipating how a catastrophe might affect them, particularly if they don’t have an existing benchmark to measure against, so lockdown has carried its own specific set of frustrations.

The speed at which our normal changed was so swift that if you blinked you might have missed it. Whilst workplaces may have supplied us with the right equipment to get us through a lockdown, socially we were much less prepared. We didn’t imagine it could happen to us or how it would impact us, and we couldn’t imagine what life would be like if we had to stay inside for a long time.

But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining and, whilst lockdown is tough, we’ve rallied and found new and inventive ways to come together and support each other from our living rooms (or bedrooms, bathrooms, gardens – wherever your housing set-up has dictated you must now spend the bulk of your days).

Phones calls are back

Who could’ve predicted it, particularly as the rise of the smartphone meant millennials and below were, frankly, afraid of the humble phone call, preferring texting to speaking. But lockdown changed all of that, and suddenly the real terror was not whether we would have enough bandwidth for video calls, it was actually whether our underused mobile networks could support us.

But support us they did (after some switched to Wi-Fi calling), and it seems that whether it’s connecting with a colleague, checking in on gran or speaking to a friend we haven’t seen for a while, we’re more ready than ever to communicate. And with video conferencing fatigue quickly becoming a thing we’ve realised that nothing is more reassuring than a human voice straight into your ear.

‘Pivoting’ is the latest buzzword

From global brands to small communities, we’ve become adept at pivoting quickly to meet each other’s needs. From luxury fashion brands switching production capabilities to make hand sanitiser in the wake of a national shortage to supermarkets changing their opening hours for medical workers and vulnerable people to small businesses finding ways to keep local communities supplied, there’s no shortage of examples of how we’ve quickly adapted what we’re capable of to meet new needs we hadn’t previously anticipated.

There’s a new hero in town

We used to hold celebrities and sports starts up as demigods and celebrate them as heroes of our time. Well, not anymore. Sorry ‘slebs but no one wants to hear from you at the moment (particularly if you’re going to serenade us with a version of ‘Imagine’ that would have John Lennon turning in his grave). Now we’re celebrating the real heroes – doctors, nurses, the people who keep our supply chains moving, cashiers in supermarkets, the delivery drivers that go out every day so we can still buy things on the internet.

Whether it’s cheering them from our balconies, making scrubs from our homes, waiving speeding tickets but supplying facemasks instead or even walking 100 laps of your garden before your 100th birthday and raising a whopping £24 million for a crippled healthcare system, we’re coming together to celebrate and support our real heroes, and let them know we appreciate them.

It’s become even cooler to be kind

And there’s been a bit of a shift in the ways we communicate kindness. Whereas before we might have put our acts of kindness on social media for the world to see, now we’re being kind for kindness sake and not for the number of likes it will get us. Whether it’s checking on a friend who’s locked in with small children, forming online community chat groups to support the most vulnerable, waiving rent for out of work tenants or taking a voluntary pay cut so your staff won’t be furloughed, we’re becoming more altruistic — and altruism is really cool.