Digital Volunteers during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Care Work on Social Media for Socio-technical Resilience
ISSN der Zeitschrift
Like past crises, the COVID-19 pandemic has galvanized individual volunteers to contribute to the public response. This includes digital volunteers who have organized physical aid and conducted social media activities. Analyzing German volunteering support groups on Facebook and related Reddit threads in the context of COVID-19, we show what types of help are offered and how social media users interact with each other to cope with the situation. We reveal that most users offering help online mostly perform typical care work, such as buying groceries or giving advice. Crucially, volunteering is characterized by relationships of care. This means it builds on affirmative interactions. In spite of some misdirected offers and regressive interruptions, people use the possibility to make their voices heard and, showing empathy, help each other to live with the crisis. Social media like Facebook mediate societal structures, including relationships of care, offering a space for the continuous, cumulatively resilient conduct of care work. Reflecting on the traditional division of labor in crisis volunteering and counter-productive dynamics of care and empathy, we aim to articulate a feminist ethics of care that allows for interactions on social media that foster generative computer-supported collaboration.