Virtual Micro-Communities: Build Them and See Where They Take You
The internet certainly gets its share of criticism, some well-deserved. Yet, one reason we like it is for the relationships it has helped foster.
Many will never become dear friends or lead to true friendships as we define that word. But some have definitely become acquaintances with whom we learn we have much in common. This forms the basis of many micro-communities within a larger one such as Facebook or other virtual sites.
We crave community that is built on common interests such as stamp collecting, bridge or poker, cooking, writing, grief support, religion, painting, books, ancestry, movies, exercise and on and on. They help us broaden our horizons. The advantage to virtual communities is that it brings us in touch with others we might never see and meet because of geographical distance. We get to know them and might pursue a deeper bond.
This became even more important after living in lockdown and feeling lonely and isolated. Our virtual micro-communities were a safe way to keep us connected, an unanticipated benefit of the internet. Here are some cyber micro-communities that kept us afloat and linked us socially: cooking during the pandemic (Kitchen Quarantine on Facebook), views of our houses and our views out our windows (View from My Window, also on Facebook), shared interests such as watercolor painting, snow globe collecting , a love of symphony (and interest in a recently opened concert hall many eagerly awaited).
And in some cases, these micro-communities brought us back to our roots, from grade-school communities to camp and college groups. We each became engaged in regular Zoom calls of these types of smaller groups that reached into our past.
Barbara looked forward to one of her K-8 grade school pals with 10 regularly zooming usually twice a month for the last two-plus years. They reignited long ago pleasant memories, and they shared discussions of favorite teachers and subjects and events they disliked, too (for Barbara one science teacher passing around a snake in class and the bravest wrapping him/her around their neck).
Only a few of them were buds back then but somehow they came together in this virtual forum and found enough sustenance and the glue to keep the group going, whether about local and national elections, downsizing and moves, sharing news about getting Covid shots, grandkids, travel when they felt brave enough, what was happening in their different locations, from New York to Connecticut, Tennessee, Florida, Wisconsin and Alaska, and the death of classmates and their partners or spouses. Now post Covid, they are still zooming.
Barbara also cares about a camp group she's in that shares their love of their girls' sleepaway in Maine where they focused on building female friendships and self-esteem more than mastering the best tennis strokes, elegant dives and water-skiing positions (though some also did that).
Margaret zooms with a newer group of friends-they call themselves The Girls, where they discuss remodelings, trips, their kids and grandkids, cooking, books, music, gardening, finance, politics and engage in diatribes about the pandemic and those who refuse to be vaccinated.
Another virtual micro-community is Margaret's grade school chums, which has fostered some reconnections. There is a large geographic spread among them, and Zoom has given them a way to come together without leaving home. Initially, Margaret hosted it about every other month or so and then less often. It fizzled out for a while but resurfaced recently when another woman offered to take charge.
Some of these online friendships, both new or renewed, have evolved into deeper bonds with phone calls, texts and visits in person and sharing about life's ups and downs that wouldn't be spoken about with just anyone.
Yet, they represent people we've come to like, trust and confide in and sometimes morph into "real" friendships as time has gone on. One who regularly reads our weekly blog has become an in-person friend of Barbara's, along with one of her good friends whom Barbara barely knew back in high school. They talk about wanting to spend more time together in person.
Through Zooms for tutoring, Margaret has met a few folks with common interests. She has gotten together with some to take a walk, for lunch and conversation. And they will regularly email and text: "Just checking to see how you're doing. Let's get together soon." That makes her feel good, especially in her newly adopted city.
There are also virtual connections that most likely will remain as such and never become more. Barbara really doesn't know one illustrator/children's book author, but they became FB "friends." Barbara looks forward to the person's daily posts with cute animals and characters who spout great wisdom and cheerful advice. Sadly, now, Barbara also knows that the artist/writer's husband is suffering from FTD, frontotemporal dementia, and her latest illustrations show and tell what he and they are going through as they navigate this difficult illness. Through the tools of social media, Barbara can share her concern and compassion.
And we can also to be joyous for others when they post happy events. Those trips! Weddings! Grandchildren, all of whom are gorgeous, athletic and brilliant! There are also those restaurant meals with great drinks and wine! One Facebook friend of Barbara's always seems to have a drink or cocktail in hand. And family gatherings are shared where everyone seems to get along so splendidly!
Isn't it wonderful that through the internet and the micro-communities that form as a result, we can share our passions and participate in the important, happy and sad moments in others' lives. We think so.