Covid-19 has disrupted everybody’s lives. Parents working from home (when lucky) or waiting to go back to work (when unlucky). Children are being home schooled and schools are silently trying to cope. It is tough. What is tougher is the fact that the UK has officially surpassed Italy and is now trying to show that they are no so worse off than Spain. Needless to say, the UK had more time to prepare for Covid but this is not the point of this post.
People have shown resilience, kindness and hope. Local networks of volunteers and businesses have shed a new lights on how people can establish communities of support in hard times, even when institutions cannot support. I will write another post about some good examples in Central Scotland. Most importantly, the NHS staff demonstrated that decade-long cuts have been unable to erode their dedication to their patients. And people have appreciated this. Twitter has been inundated by messages of support to the NHS and the use of the #COVID-19 as well #stayhomesavelives have abounded.
The latter one has been analysed on twitter and two-day worth of tweets have been studied looking at the key tags around which a network of words, people and thoughts have gathered.
The tweets of two days gathered, created two main clusters: keeping safe but also going through hardship and patiently await the end of these hard and difficult times. What is interesting is how the network of most used words (or toptags) revolve around two major categories: the togetherness (which is also including the NHS) and the self-isolation aspect of such togetherness.
The discussions (and these are only two days of tweets!) are very polarised toward everyone being in this together and the necessity to be thoughtful and the flip side of keeping millions isolated at home. Key terms such as hardship and patience emerge just as insistently as self-isolation (right hand side of the network), family and fun. The network (terrible rendition on the blog post unfortunately) is split in two clusters.This network could potentially help us understand the complexity of these tough times and the lessons we can learn from these discussions. For decades we have been talking about the positive aspects of technology, how it saves us time, how we can be in a videocall and still wear out pj bottoms while our line manager is talking about very important strategies. What nobody could ever foresee if how the physical distancing that a catastrophe like COVID-19 caused, could bring us so socially close, appreciating the multiple communities we take for granted. The NHS is the only such community that emerges in these 49,000 tweets in the two crucial days during which the UK reached, and sadly surpassed, their 30,000th death.
One cluster, the one on the left, is about family and being static, staying at home. The opposite cluster, the one on the right, is about self-isolation, wait and toughness of these unprecedent times. People, care and NHS stay right at the heart of this network of tweets, indicating (perhaps corroborating) how this lockdown has been hard on physical distancing but it has certainly brought (back) to light the important role of social closeness, belief in certain institutions like the NHS and the sense of togetherness.
What does this mean for non profit organisations, institutions but also governments?
The networks of support that have emerged during this pandemic have been phenomenal. Facebook pages mushroomed (too bad Facebook didn’t let me mine these beautiful pages), messages of support and networks of volunteers ready to give up their time, offer to do grocery shopping for the elderly and leave the shopping at the doorstep (so no thank yous involved), people that helped other people paying bills, sharing grocery shopping budgets, calling on one another for help without fears.
This network rendition of the discussions taking place on Twitter using #stayhomesavelives tell a story where resilience mixed and enmeshes with fear and stories of people helping -and chatting with- people. Plain and simple. These are hard times and there is no trivialising them with a network of tweets. Tweets obviously do not tell the stories of casual or seasonal workers, small businesses and bnb that have received en-masse cancellations. However, these solidarity networks that have emerged and have found space on social media should be carefully studied and preciously kept because they show that communities-driven solidarity projects, micro-credit and small incentives through communities (in this case virtual) of people that have finally realised to be on the same boat are more powerful than any top-down initiatives aimed at supporting some of us in these difficult and trying times.