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We feel more ties with our neighbours than ‘distant friends’ on social media #covid-community


Weak Ties and the New Neighbourhood under Covid

We are all experiencing higher levels of anxiety due to Covid, and a sense of belonging is an important part of reducing anxiety. Indeed a lack of belonging increases anxiety further. Many can no longer feel that sense of belonging through going to the workplace, and even those that can, are likely to feel a stronger sense of community than previously with their neighbours.

This is for a couple of reasons:

  • Firstly, we are all experiencing the same pandemic, even if some are in a better situation than others. Actually the neighbours are likely to be in similar situations to yourself, and so now you are sharing in something that is creating anxiety. Shared experiences (including clapping for the NHS and having to keep a gap between each other when walking) can create that sense of belonging.
  • Secondly, the issues created by Covid can often only be helped by people nearby – social media with people miles away is not going to help if you run out of sugar or have a nasty fall on the doorstep. Therefore suddenly neighbours are more important than before.

Generally, neighbourhoods are classed as ‘weak ties’. You don’t know them well but you are aware of their presence and, with so many more of us working from home, you have more time to see some of their activities, or chat over the fence (at a distance of course). What may have been no knowledge at all is turning into a weak tie. Research indicates that weak ties in neighbourhoods foster positive cohesion to the broader community. In Covid you are more likely to feel you are ‘in it together’ and the weak ties indicate a link to ‘collective public will’ instead of pure individualistic interests (Rousseau has done some work on the links between weak ties and collective vs individualistic).

Good news is the evidence is that ‘weak ties’ in a neighbourhood means people are more likely to engage in citizenship behaviour – we will help each other more. Some cohesion amongst residents has been shown to be a key ingredient of healthy communities. Furthermore, increasing these weak ties may be useful in a different way once Covid lock-down has ended – there is a lot of evidence that weak ties are the ones who will help us to get jobs – something a lot of people may be needing.

Professor Stephanie J Morgan

University of Aberdeen Business School

Link to story at the Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/nextdoor-app-download-b1812344.html

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