Community Connections

I think a lot about community connection as a form of informal social support. Since the start of the Covid pandemic, I’ve been thinking about it more intensely.  Specifically, I’m thinking about our different levels of connection which I’m writing about now and later, I’ll write about grasping for connection. 

Many of us have different levels of intimacy with friends and family. We might have difference circles, tiers, or placements on the mountain for our relationships. And I think we spend a lot of time focused on nourishing those closest to us and often take for granted those lower down the mountain–those work friends or workplace proximity associates. 

Our less intimate friends such as work friends can provide a level of support that is not available from our closest friends. When I say work friends, I mean those people we talk to only at work (not only about work) and we rarely if ever interact with them outside of the workspace. For example, when we are struggling with a partner or with parenting, our work friends serve as a source of support from a subjective third person point of view. They can provide a space to vent and rant about our struggles at home. We can share with them things we might not share with our closer friends because we don’t risk relationships between our most intimates . When I was working on my dissertation, this type of social support was surprisingly high among the first time fathers I surveyed. Co-workers were one of the most frequently reported groups fathers went to for informal advice in parenting and partnering. I think as some of our work environments have shifted to less in office space and more working from home, I worry about the loss of this support.

How might the loss of these relationships impact our access and use of informal supports (or mutual aid) and increase our need for formal support which is costly and often unavailable?