How to Find Your E-Community (and Make Meaningful Connections) During Times of Isolation
Engaging in regular social interactions and feeling a sense of community is good for us. Staying connected with loved ones and forging new social connections doesn't just make us feel good—socializing is a key lifestyle habit that promotes health and longevity.
"Social connections add meaning to our lives and decrease our risk for depression, anxiety, substance disorder, loneliness, and low self-esteem," says Paula Durlofsky, PhD, a clinical psychologist based in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and the author of Logged In and Stressed Out: How Social Media is Affecting Your Mental Health. "In fact, research shows that social connectedness is as good for our physical health as exercising or quitting smoking."
The past year, however, has forced most people to reckon with the consequences of social isolation, the physical distance from our closest acquaintances, and the loss of opportunities to meet new people or join like-minded groups. But while groups can't yet gather in person (at least in many parts of the country), people can—and should—still find meaningful ways to socialize and gather virtually. This, of course, includes FaceTiming with friends and playing virtual games with far-flung relatives, but it also includes branching out to find a new community, supportive network, or interest group online. "Digital groups facilitate connections between users based on shared interests, activities, and characteristics," Durlofsky says. She calls it finding your "e-tribe."
"An ideal 'e-tribe' should nourish your passions, interests, and curiosities. As with your relationships or [circles] in real life, your 'e-tribe' should be supportive, welcoming, nonjudgmental, and non-critical," says Durlofsky. Here's why it's so important for our well-being, and how to find your own virtual enclave.