While the company has been around since 2017, Quilt's earliest iteration connected people with IRL meet-ups. When the pandemic hit, though, Quilt pivoted to an online audio format (versus a written forum or video), noting a desire from consumers to engage with virtual communities about any number of topics, including burnout, sex advice, astrology, and more. "There was something that was translating...this intimacy of just hearing each other's voices without the friction of comparison, like 'I'm not going to come on because I don't look good right now, and I don't want to be seen'," says Ashley Sumner, Quilt founder and CEO.
As an introvert who has long been lurker in group chats with even my close friends, I was initially intimidated to participate in Quilts with strangers, but I quickly realized that the app's capabilities has folks with all sorts of social preferences and personalities in mind. Here's how it works: After you download the free Quilt app and make an account, you can start attending and creating "Quilts," which are where the conversations happen. You can attend Quilts on basically any topic, hosted by experts like life coach Ryan Weiss, psychiatrist Jessica Clemons, MD, and intuitive spiritual healer Jae Rae, to name a few. You can also opt to start your own Quilt.
As listeners, users have access to emoji reactions and badges; you can raise a hand if you have something to say, or use the ear emoji to indicate that you just want to listen. This totally takes the pressure off for social introverts and allows for authentic, anxiety-free self care.
"You can heart things…so that you still feel like everybody knows you're there and you're engaged, but there's no pressure to participate—you can just listen." —Ashley Sumner, Quilt founder and CEO
"You can heart things…so that you still feel like everybody knows you're there and you're engaged, but there's no pressure to participate—you can just listen," Sumner says. "It's interesting to see; introverts will do 10 or 15 quilts, and then you'll see that moment where somebody shared something that was so resonant, and like the hand pops up. So sometimes it just takes time, and sometimes people will learn forever." (ICYWW, I'm still a lurker.)
The instantaneous access to support and hearing another person's voice is key to the app—you can Quilt while walking, bathing, hiking, pretty much anywhere with cell reception, about topics light and serious alike. "We've had people open up a Quilt saying, 'I feel like I'm gonna have a panic attack,' and then not have one because people came in just to support them during the feelings of overwhelm," Sumner says. The app also features listings for mental-health resources that users can use when more than professional support is needed.
"Another thing we just built out is…if you have a concern for a person, maybe for their well-being, or their impact on the collective well-being, you can ping us immediately," Sumner says. "It comes into our [internal] Slack, and you have direct access to us; we're continuing to build out safety [features]."
The primary goals Sumner had when creating the app were for everyone who comes on to leave feeling better than they did, and to create a safe and inclusive online space for people to connect—even in an isolated world. "I believe that community is the greatest form of self care that we can do—being in community with one another, supporting one another, and sharing the things going on in our heads with one another so we know, 'okay cool, I'm not alone'," she says.
Quilt is free and available to download on the App Store for iPhone.
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