Creative Ways to Connect with Friends Virtually
because being social from a distance isn’t all that bad
While many people have adhered to the guidelines on social distancing from trusted organizations like the CDC and the stay at home orders set by their local and national governments (to the point where it's already shown to be reducing the spread!!), not everyone has put this into practice to the correct extent.
Aside from healthcare workers, grocery store employees, and individuals with jobs in other essential industries, each and every one of us has an obligation to stay at home for the safety of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. Yet rather than taking this crisis seriously, certain leaders and civilians alike are treating COVID-19 as a joke and social feeds are full of conscientious objectors sharing their cute date nights with non-cohabiting significant others and fun-filled gatherings of "small" groups of friends and family. Apparently the inconvenience of putting their normal social lives on pause is too burdensome for these people, even when the reasoning is literally a matter of life or death.
Obviously it's more fun to hang out with friends in person, and in normal times most people wouldn't pick social distancing over being socially active. But we are living through an unprecedented and unpredictable moment, and so drastic change is not only the right thing to do but it is also vital to the livelihood of life as we know it.
So, to all of these social butterflies who don’t want to give their wings a rest and everyone else who didn't get the memo (or have gotten it and chosen to crumple up said memo and all subsequent reminders and toss them in the trash and, probably, set it all aflame), here’s another attempt to try to convince you.
Though pretty self-explanatory, "staying at home" means exactly one thing: s-t-a-y a-t h-o-m-e! It doesn't mean going to a friend's house for the day or hanging out with your neighbors or keeping a select guest list of visitors or justifying spending time with others because you’re staying indoors. You are supposed to limit all personal interaction as much as possible and quarantine only with the people you already live with (your “quaranteam”); so, sorry, but if you live alone that means you should responsibly be quarantined solo.
To be socially distant during a global pandemic (yeah it’s a big deal, we aren’t all doing this just for fun) actually means to be physically distant. It shouldn’t be misunderstood as having to be completely cut off socially. The "social" aspect of being human does not have to suffer, for thankfully we have the Internet and technology to keep us connected even while apart.
Anyone complaining about having to stay at home and the lack of outside contact isn’t trying hard enough to adapt. Here are twenty different ideas for those who haven't yet gotten creative with their physically distant social interaction:
Download alllll the video communication platforms. Houseparty with your best friends, Facetime your parents, use Facebook Messenger to reconnect with an old pal from school or a previous job, host Zoom happy hours with your colleagues, start an Instagram Live and chat with anyone who wants to join...you get the gist. Each platform has its strengths, and variety keeps things interesting, right?
Join a virtual book club, or start one of your own. If you’re coordinating, allow enough time for everyone to secure a copy of the reading material (either physical—delivered via Amazon, the local book store, or the library—or digitally using Kindle, e-library access, Audible, etc.) and then of course discuss before moving on to the next book. You can choose to do scheduled video calls, ongoing group chats, or even set up a personal discussion board or Facebook group. Having a space to interact, ask questions, and converse while reading is an added benefit of reading a good book! You may love this form of bonding so much that you all decide to extend it when things get back to normal.
Find your digital social circle. Use Facebook Groups or apps like Discord to easily communicate over voice, video, and text with different friends and join interest-based communities. Your people are out there and you can all keep each other grounded and entertained during this crazy time in our lives.
Play telephone, literally. Click on the phone icon on your device of the same namesake and dial up your bestie, your grandma, your S.O., or anyone else whose voice you might be missing. Phone calls are quick and convenient, and you don’t have to put any thought whatsoever into what you’re wearing or how your unwashed hair looks. Even if you only reach their voicemail (probably because they’re shocked by their not-often-heard ringtone, not because they’re busy...because most of us aren’t right now), leave a funny or heartwarming message to put a smile on their face.
Throw a karaoke party. It’s Friday night and you’re looking for a way to unwind after a stressful week of working or learning from home. So, pull up some hits on Youtube, share your screen on video call so everyone can see the lyrics, take out a hairbrush, and show off your vocal range. You can pick your duet partners, sing solo, or have everyone join in for a chorus just like you would in a real karaoke bar.
Network in your PJs. Pencil in a night every week for professional outreach, either by emailing or calling existing connections and mentors, or by using LinkedIn to seek out new industry bffs.
Book an Airbnb Online Experience. The site now offers a way to do unique activities with a world of hosts, giving you the means to try new things with your usual travel partners but from a more than safe distance.
Participate in a trivia night. Since the local bars that these are typically held in are shuttered for the time being, you can order in your favorite brews and compete in an online pub quiz instead.
Check out the hottest new club in town: your living room. Everyone can jump on a video call, wear their finest PJs, blast the same Spotify playlist, knock back some homemade cocktails, and dance their hearts out. There are even some cool live-stream concerts you may be able to attend.
Become each other’s personal trainers. Start a workout routine (either the same or individually) and hold one another accountable to getting in your exercise every day. You can find great resources online for cardio, yoga, jogging, dance, using your at home equipment, or even just walking.
Designate a weekly date night. Get dressed up, order takeout from your favorite spot or cook the same meal, and then set up your video cam so it looks like they’re sitting across from you. Even if you live together and are spending pretty much every waking second together now, it’s still so beneficial to schedule time in which you can talk about your day (no matter how boring it might seem to you), turn off the news and turn over your phones, and really enjoy each other’s company. Cutting out the romance part, you can also do weekly family meals with your loved ones.
Test out your best pick up lines. If you’re single and hoping to mingle, you can keep using your dating apps! While you shouldn’t be meeting anyone in person, swiping and messaging cuties online won’t harm anyone. If sparks really fly, you can even try giving one of your Hinge or Tinder prospects a shot by going on a virtual date to get to know one other better. If the date goes poorly, the fact that it was not in-person makes it easier to cut off ties. If you think you might have a future together, the current crisis situation is unfortunate but it also means you have a reason to take things slow and give the relationship a real good chance!
Get a pen pal. A quick Google search will show you that there are tons of online services that will match you with someone you can exchange emails or snail mail with. You can also do a good deed and write one-way letters through services like Love for the Elderly to show people who may be feeling more isolated than others that you care.
Jump on the TikTok train. It seems like everyone and their grandpa is creating an account, so why not? You can dedicate some of your time at home to learning one of the many dances circulating the app, as well as document any funny moments you might want to look back on a year from now.
Get your culture on. Tour a museum or explore a national park for free, thanks to the generosity of institutions around the world. Same goes for zoos, theaters, and even theme parks! You can also create a list of your favorites to eventually check off in real life.
Play an interactive game. Although video games are sometimes thought to be disconnected from the real world, console games like Animal Crossing have given people a community while they’re social distancing. You can also play games on your phone using popular board game apps or make a game night out of it with something like a Jackbox.tv. party pack.
Cook something yummy. Text your friend a recipe (and maybe even deliver the ingredients to them) and then send each other pics throughout the cooking process, call each other during any waiting times, and then devour your delicious creations. You can also call an older family member with a long-held recipe you’ve been dying to learn how to make and convince them to walk you through the steps virtually.
Knock out your watch list together. Netflix Party allows you to synchronize video playback and adds a group chat feature to your screen so you can react in real-time with others as you watch a movie or binge on a TV show or the hot new docuseries from your own devices. If you don’t like interruptions, you can also just pick a movie, watch it separately, and then discuss after over call or text. No movie night is complete without popcorn, so make sure you have lots of your favorite microwavable brand in the pantry (or buy some kernels and learn how to pop some on the stovetop)!
Pick up a new skill. Take a remote class with hundreds of new peers or get a friend to virtually learn to do something hands-on with you. If it requires supplies, order them online. This quarantine is only temporary, but whatever new knowledge you get will stick with you for life.
Get some fresh air. Because having time outdoors is vital for your health and psyche, try doing voice and video calls from your backyard or balcony or while taking a walk around your neighborhood. If you don't have personal green space, hopefully you have a park or other more open area nearby where you can secure your own six-foot radius area to get some sun and fresh air as you connect with someone digitally—or unplug and opt for waving to passerby.
There are so many ways to be socially connected from quarantine, and most just involve expanding upon the conversation methods of video and text chats to make them more interactive and activity-based. Get inventive, have fun, be sure to take care of your body and mind, swap out in-person selfies for Zoom party screenshots, and for the sake of us all PLEASE STAY HOME.
All this is not to shame anyone that leaves their house at all. People all need things like fresh air and groceries to get us through quarantine. We—every single one of us—just have to be vigilant in limiting physical interactions and maintaining distance for the time being. Coming together by staying apart is the best chance we have to successfully contain the virus and eradicate it's spread so that we can all get back to our regular way of life sooner rather than later. Thank you for reading, we’ll step off our soapbox now.