It shouldn’t be surprising that the CDC has an entire section of its website dedicated to dealing with stress during COVID-19. In fact, “one in three Americans is dealing with symptoms of stress or anxiety, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics.” Extroverts and even ambiverts, like me, might be having a rougher time if we haven’t been able to replace our people time in virtual ways. Where can we find community right now? Where can we make a new community that doesn’t currently exist? Below are four recommendations for building or finding community to help battle isolation and anxiety. They are ranked from the easiest ones to start to, perhaps, the most challenging:
- Start a group chat with a few trusted friends. The chat could be about or start with “what advice do you have about ____?” It could really be on any topic.
- Find some colleagues you can work/plan with. Do you teach the same subject? Design an online course together. I’m doing this right now, and it meets three needs: I get to see people, I get to be creative and design learning, and I get to help future students with a cool class. Holly Jacobus and the other instructors who teach ENG101LL meet for an hour every two weeks to discuss their pedagogy for this new class among anything else that comes up, and they’re currently writing a manual for future teachers of this course. If that’s too much, just plan a unit together. If that’s too much, strategize about a lesson or an assignment. If that’s too much, go back to group chat.
- Start (or attend) a book group. The book could be specific to your discipline or to education or to technology or something unrelated to work–a book group that reads mysteries! Pick a book and send an email to your ten closest friends (or your department) and see who wants to join. Reading a book and talking about it can spark creativity and ideas for life or the classroom.
- Look for communities that might already exist. This one is a bit tougher. I recommend Twitter for finding some community surrounding your interests. You might also find some FB groups. You might start looking at those emails we all get a little differently and start mining those for groups you could meet with. You might search EventBrite for topics that interest you. Recently I have located a community of Gothic Scholars and The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, both of which have regular lectures. I got to attend a really great lecture on Shirley Jackson from one of my favorite Gothic lecturers and expert on Shirley Jackson, Bernice Murphy.
What ideas do you have for starting or finding community right now? Have you done one of the above, and can you share how it’s going? What’s working for you?