Offline Moment: Modern Friendships and Building a Community Offline
OUR HECTIC MODERN LIVES ARE INCREASINGLY DOMINATED BY SCREENS. AS A DIGITAL COMPANY WE KNOW FIRST HAND HOW TOUGH IT CAN BE TO TAKE A BREAK FROM THAT ADDICTIVE BLUE GLOW. SO CONSIDER THIS YOUR WEEKLY OFFLINE MOMENT. A MOMENT WHERE WE EXPLORE DIFFERENT WAYS TO QUIETEN YOUR MIND BY TAKING YOU OFFLINE AND BACK TO REAL LIFE.
By Charlotte Argyrou, Botanical Illustrator and co-host of Creative in Residence supper clubs.
There is a lot of noise about building your own online community. Whether it’s to promote your own business, or progress your career, or even to support your hobby or lifestyle, it seems we are all our own brand. We seek growth and self-improvement by showcasing our lives, and along the way we attract the attention of like minded souls. That’s a community.
But while a community supporting us through the windows on our phones can be incredibly powerful, sometimes we are left craving the human touch. Connection in real life. Laughs, not LOLs. As a botanical illustrator, I’m building an online community and client-base, trying to serve individuals and creative businesses by creating artwork they or their clients will love for a lifetime. But on the most part, I never meet my clients. We may have FaceTime updates, but by-and-large, I work in isolation. So do many of the creative business owners in my network. Making real life connections has never been more challenging or important. Particularly as a mum to young kids that can make it challenging to physically get myself out and about.
HAVE DINNER TOGETHER
I started a supper club for precisely this reason. I felt my social life was being sucked into my phone and needed to pull it back to reality. I enjoy cooking, but with no experience of catering for a large group, turned to wellness coach, retreat host and award-winning food blogger Vicky Shilling. I don’t remember the moment we became a partnership – it was an organic evolution – but now we host regular vegetarian dinner parties for women in creative business, sponsored by Abel & Cole and a wealth of health, wellness and sustainably-conscious brands. Traditional networking events turned me off so I wanted our version to be a cosy, fun, safe space for women to share their fears, frustrations and successes. Nobody wears a name-badge or is forced to talk about them themselves under a spotlight.
FIND A COMMON CAUSE
Gathered in my kitchen with a drink in hand, it’s easy to find a common cause. While our guests are a diverse mix of ages, backgrounds and have all manner of qualifications, the dinner table is a remarkable leveller. It’s humbling to witness a group of strangers unite over the shared wish to make our creative business wildly successful, whilst being dedicated to flexible work and self-care. Vicky and I are not heavy-handed with an eco-conscious message. We are intentional about our collaborations with ethical brands, prioritise locally- and seasonally-sourced food within our menus, and celebrate a mindful connection between what we eat and the way we care for ourselves as solopreneurs.
One of the ways Vicky and I feel we have most successfully built an offline community is by the sheer volume of collaborations that have resulted, in the non-digital workspace. Our network of supper guests has collaborated on broadcasts, photoshoots and workshops, which in turn has prompted multiple client referrals. Friendships have been cemented by meeting again and again offline, in addition to the double-clicks of support on Instagram. As an adult, it can be daunting to invite someone “new” for a coffee, for fear of seeming desperate or weird. But the reality is that where we feel trepidation, it’s often echoed by the other party – so they’ll be glad you asked. Initialising the first step in growing a friendship offline can be thought of as a gift. And we all know how good it feels to give.
USE TECH TO ENHANCE FRIENDSHIPS, NOT HIDE WITHIN Them
Have you ever used up an entire evening, tap-tapping on your phone to your friends whilst trying to watch TV and read a magazine, simultaneously? I certainly have, especially during phases with my little kiddies where it’s been particularly hard to get out of the house. But recently I’ve tried setting up phone calls and FaceTimes with friends, dedicating an hour to properly investing in that friendship, and then putting my phone down for the rest of the evening. The alternative is exhausting. Pinging a hundred short messages to multiple friends, jumping at the notifications of their responses, liking the updates made by friends, clients and my work peers until I fall into bed, wired and exhausted.
Nourishing relationships one at a time feels much healthier and rewarding. Since setting-up a timer on my phone to tell me when I’ve spent an hour per day on my social media, I feel I’ve turned a corner. Just as it sucked me in, I can choose to use my phone to push me out again, back into reality, encouraging me to set up those coffee dates and motivating me to organise the next supper club event. And while I adore the online network that is growing my business from the inside through likes and shares that increase visibility, it’s those connections that I’ve converted to offline relationships that will ultimately see me thrive.