I personally started to use Discord late 2017, early 2018. I made a server to keep in contact with a few friends that had moved away from my undergraduate college and I was invited to another server to hang out with two friends from Highschool. At that point, these were real life people, Discord was just a text message app with microphone capabilities to me. I didn’t really think anything more of Discord than just an application for keeping up with friends. It was a tool, rather than a social place to me. I didn’t need discord for this, it was just an easier way to share pictures and memes with friends rather than texting them.
My view of Discord as a tool changed overtime as I accumulated more online only friends. I now had friends that lived on the other side of the North America, so they didn’t have a house that I could visit at anytime. They were just on the internet. In my mind, their house was on Discord- in the bits of code that displayed their messages to me. If I wanted to “visit” my friend in Seattle or Florida, I hopped onto a Discord call and said hello. The Discord voice channels became rooms and servers became houses, places for people to congregate to watch a movie, play a game, or just chat. These meeting places are important for my feeling of connection and copresence with my online friends and even friends that I can’t see due to the pandemic. The bouncing off each other’s reactions, emotions, and just being with the other in that moment is what builds the solidarity within those relationships (Campos-Castillo & Hitlin, 2013). I think this copresence with friends is why my understanding of place connected with Discord so readily.
My understanding of discord as a place was further solidified by the pandemic. As someone who thrives off having people around and the commotion of 4 conversations going on at once, the pandemic hit me pretty hard. However, I think I would have been in a much worse place if I didn’t have the friend group I have on Discord. Discord provides the place for social gatherings that I miss so much in these tumultuous times. Each Server is its own space for congregation of the people in that server, the meeting place or the hangout spot. I “go” to this server for my Friday night roleplaying, then I “head over” to a different server to hang out with them to play Borderlands.
It is possible that the use of these verbs implying movement illicit an understanding of space and place in my mind. The words we use can be consistent with the world around us, but it can also constitute that reality (Austin, 1962). If I understand Discord in terms of place and moving through that space, then in my reality it is a place with meaning. I think that Discord developers knows that in some way because they have place in their tag line. They want people to perceive Discord as their place to go to visit online friends and I think they’ve succeed in some regard.
I have Discord constantly up on my computer, chatting in real time with people and jumping into calls when I see them pop up. I love hanging out my friends even when it’s just to watch a stream of them playing a game. It makes me feel connected in a disjointed reality with people that I would have never met in real life. Discord creates the application and the people within it create their own places on servers or group chats. I don’t know if this is a reality on other synchronous chatting platforms like Skype, but I have never experienced the specific feeling of place that I have had with Discord. I’m thankful for it because it makes me feel at home with my friends even when they are thousands of miles away.
1) Campos-Castillo, C. & Hitlin, S. (2013). Copresence: Revisiting a Building Block for Social Interaction Theories. Sociological Theory, 31(2), 168-192.
2) Austin, J.L. (1962). How to Do Things with Words. Harvard University Press: Cambridge.