An all-women Discord Group called Calgary friends was created by 23-year-old graphic designer and illustrator Tiana Lawlis on March 11, 2021 in a Reddit Group called Calgary Onwards.
Lawlis’s goal was to address the loneliness and isolation felt by women in Calgary who are fed up with not being able to socialize due to COVID-19.
“I was really wanting to meet other women in the city. And I’ve found it to be quite difficult to make friends as you get older,” says Discord group founder Lawlis.
She goes on to explain that at first her post on Reddit was just an attempt to reach out and make friends with other women in the city who were also feeling lonely.
However, the post on Reddit grew into a large discussion thread of other women feeling the same way and so the Discord group was created.
“So many other people were also, you know, feeling the COVID loneliness and just in general, having a really hard time meeting other people,” says Lawlis.
According to the Angus Reid Institute, the percentage of those saying they have a good social life has dropped from more than half in 2019 (55 percent) to just one-in-three (33 percent) in 2020.
Valeria Lallva is a 29-year-old childcare worker who lives at home with her parents and sister. Under the COVID-19 restrictions, she’s not allowed to have any close external contacts.
She joined the Discord group with the hope of socializing and meeting people in a virtual setting.
“I know there’s a whole bunch of people, probably my age, in the city but I don’t go out a lot, especially during COVID. So, I’m hoping that meeting them virtually will make it much easier to meet them later in person,” said Lallva.
Melissa Grey is a registered psychologist and educational counsellor at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).
Grey confirms that a main source of stress that people bring up in counselling is having to transition into this new state of socialization.
“People are isolated, and a huge part of mental well-being is social connections and access to shared understandings of what’s happening around the globe,” says Grey.
She notes the situation is particularly difficult for those new to the country or city.
The best way to cope, says Grey, is, “refusing to be isolated and doing what we can to make sure that we recognize it, and we have a willingness because there is a lot that we can do to prevent and kind of keep our mental health strong.”
The creation of the Discord group is one way of solving this problem.
But Crystal Robinson, 36, who moved to Calgary in June 2020, says, “it’s like a band-aid situation on a wound.”
Robinson says, “Reddit and Discord are both nerdy environments for people who want to play Dungeons & Dragons so I was pretty excited.”
The stay-at-home mom and mother of a teen and toddler says she’s an extrovert who loves hosting parties and can’t wait until everyone is vaccinated, the restrictions are lifted and life returns to normal.
Robinson hosted a Dungeons and Dragons beginner session on the Discord group on Friday, May 21 and it was such a hit it’s going to be a regular online event and eventually an in-person event when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Joel Zimmerman, a registered psychologist and counselling psychologist at the Calgary Counseling Center, stresses that loneliness has been around long before COVID-19 but that the pandemic, “adds a level of complexity, and it requires more problem-solving.”
“Loneliness is a really common feeling and a totally natural human experience. And so, the first kind of trip is to have some compassion for yourself,” he says.
Zimmerman also encourages people “to take action, do something, whether it’s reaching out, whether it is finding activities that you can do, whether they’re alone or not engaging in hobbies or activities engaging online.”
That is what the Discord Group is trying to address. For more information, contact @petitsia on Discord for access to the channel – all women are welcome!