Our dependence on technology is often seen as a double-edged sword. It is the ties that bind us to loved ones far away through easy communication and social media. But the ease of chatting through a pop-up window on a screen can make us forget how to organically form interpersonal relationships in real life.
Enter: the pandemic. Lives are drastically transformed by a lack of mobility and reach. Proximity takes precedence – for medical needs, everyday support, for groceries, necessities, and even emotional sustenance.
According to a report commissioned by MyGate, India’s largest society management app, Around 80% of respondents living in gated communities and 71% in the non-gated communities became closer to their neighbours during the pandemic, agreeing with the statement, “My ‘Trust Circle’ has shifted to include people in my neighbourhood whom I am likely to interact with every day”.
A renewed community
Blocks and buildings are constantly buzzing with queries on local vaccination drives, produce availability, medical assistance, cases in the area, and the latest news on lockdown timings and restrictions. Ironically, all this new-found connectivity was born out of the need to isolate. Technology remained the backbone for communication (and commiseration) but this time it facilitated something more – a greater sense of community spirit within the neighbourhood.
In fact, 81% of respondents from the MyGate report said that they are more likely to depend on their neighbours for urgent help as compared to pre-covid times, where their dependency was usually on close friends and relatives.
Unsurprisingly, our immediate areas of dwelling – our neighbourhood – has transformed into a closer-knit circle. The trust built among neighbours extends out of just the current health crisis. It has reached new realms of engagement that are more social in nature as well as interactions related to everyday issues around electricity, water, maid, etc.
Technology to integrate with the neighbourhood
As the walls closed in on us because of Covid-19, our windows to the outside world became primarily virtual. And so, over the past two years, we have become wholly accustomed to using social media and apps to check views and reviews for products and services. 44% of respondents said that they would turn to technology to verify/validate the credibility of service providers such as an electrician or plumber.
Unsurprisingly, the younger generation is even keener to use technology to help them better integrate with their surroundings. 43% of Gen Z respondents claimed that even if they moved into a new neighbourhood, it would be technology that would make them feel most comfortable as compared to 38% of millennials.
Anticipating their use of technology to stay connected with their neighbourhood post the pandemic, almost a third of respondents across different age groups – 28% of over 45 yrs of age, 28% of millennials and 27% of Gen Z said that they would continue to use technology to stay connected with their ecosystem, highlighting a shift in the acceptance of technology usage across generations.
Addressing community issues with ease
Technology has also made it easier to resolve community issues more efficiently, especially during the pandemic. A trend that seems likely to continue when restrictions are finally lifted. Almost 90% of those interviewed said that technology made it easier for them to address community issues in a smooth manner. This has resulted in bringing down the time and effort previously involved in solving problems within the neighbourhood, bringing communities together in a more harmonious way.
Ease of communication is the key to neighbourhood harmony
The old neighbourhood, where residents knew and depended on the people in their immediate vicinity, is coming to life again, and usefulness of technology during the pandemic is playing a key role. We are starting to realize the importance of the relationships we once oversaw as mere formalities – a quick ‘good morning’ to a fellow resident or a half-hearted ‘thank you’ to the security guard.
In fact, 88% of respondents stated that their relationship and dependence on neighbours, the local vendors and support staff (such as watchman, delivery boy, and maids) has improved during the pandemic. Over 75% of respondents helped their support staff (security guard maid, plumber, etc.) with grocery, food, or salary. Furthermore, nearly 73% of respondents engage with their maids beyond work, offering tea, coffee, food or even a salary of three months or more as loan if required.
The importance of a helpful, giving community has never been more evident than in these trying times.