During a time when people are staying home and social distancing, maintaining — and even enhancing — our social connections remain as important as ever.
“With the technologies we have available today, we can stay home and protect against COVID-19, but still remain socially connected with people we love and care about via text, phone call, video and many other platforms,” says Leah Welch, Phd, a psychologist at Scripps Health.
Whether you’re a phone-only kind of person, or dialed in already with popular video platforms, there are many ways to stay socially connected while we shelter in place. It makes no difference whether the people you want to engage with live across the street or across the world.
7 ways to narrow divide during time of social distancing. Here are some creative things people have been doing to bridge the physical divides:
1. Virtual happy hours: You and your friends can get together after work to decompress and share stories of the day and about your experiences during these challenging times. You don’t need to do this in-person. You can do it virtually.
Choose a platform. Some of the most popular video platforms are FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts and most recently House Party. Create a meeting time, send out invites to friends or loved ones, include an agenda, if any and get started.
“Talking to each other about our experiences and observations helps to make these unusual times feel a little less strange,” Welch says.
Alcoholic drinks are optional. Make sure to drink responsibly if you go this route.
2. Stay social with online gaming: Video games today can be played across long distances. It’s no wonder online gaming is seeing a boom during the COVID-19 pandemic as people strive to stay social while practicing social distancing.
Popular games include Fortnite, Minecraft and JackBox Games, which can be played on multiple platforms. “If you don’t know how to get started setting up or playing video games, this is a perfect time to flip the tables and let a younger person be the expert,” Welch says.
The gaming industry is doing its part to help protect our safety by teaming up with the World Health Organization (WHO) in support of its #PlayApartTogether messaging campaign. The campaign uses video games to promote the importance of social distancing and other safety measures during the pandemic.
3. Try online exercise programs: Missing your workout partner? A lot of major exercise franchises have made all or part of their platforms free in response to the pandemic. Whether you do CrossFit, yoga, dance cardio or Pilates, you and your workout partner can still arrange to meet at a certain time, log in together and do your workout.
4. Virtual class reunions, family reunions: Is your annual family reunion, or high school or college reunion scheduled for this year? You don’t need to cancel any of these time-honored events. You can do it online rather than gathering in-person. You can be the host or an attendee in a virtual event.
“There are ways to convert most in-person activities into virtual gatherings and make them really fun and creative,” Welch says.
Event organizers, such as Eventbrite, have expanded their offerings to help people change their reunion from live to virtual.
5. Watch free concerts online together: Many musicians and celebrities are putting on events for their safe-at-home and essential-worker fans. Whether you like rock, R & B, alternative, country, classical, opera, or anything else, it’s out there for the finding.
You can get started by Googling keywords for your favorite genres along with “free online concert.” Well-known musicians participating include John Legend, Pink and Chris Martin of Coldplay.
For children, celebrities have been offering virtual story times, too. Jimmy Fallon, Oprah Winfrey, Rami Malek, Melissa Gilbert and Betty White are among the celebrities who have taken the time to read to our kids. You might enjoy the stories too!
6. Take virtual tours: You can still go to the zoo. You can go to many incredible museums around the world if you desire and still stay home. Many zoos and museums have made their virtual tours available for free to support the public during the pandemic. You may see footage of zoo animals encountering each other for the first time, something not usually possible during business as usual.
So, hop on your desktop, tablet or smartphone with your friend and visit a zoo or museum or take a virtual tour anywhere that you’d like to go.
“If you had a vacation that needed to be rescheduled due to the pandemic, go anyway with Google Earth,” Welch says. “Of course, it’s not the same, but you’ll still see things you haven’t seen before, guaranteed.”
7. Write letters: Is there a senior citizen in your life (or even a non-senior) who would appreciate an actual physical card or letter? Of course, there is.
Spending extra time indoors with our kids gives us a chance to teach them how to write interesting and heartfelt words on paper by hand. Many consider handwriting a forgotten art but it doesn’t have to be.