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How To Stay Connected While Social Distancing

05/02/2020
By Soji James, CPT, CSCS

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected us all. We’re staying home and practicing social distancing for the greater good, and that’s an amazing thing. It’s a really beautiful and selfless act of solidarity. We are all doing our best to flatten the curve for the sake of our loved ones—and people we don’t even know. It’s pretty incredible, and when this is over, we can be proud of what we accomplished together.

Psychiatrist On How To Stay Connected Despite Social Distancing – CBS This Morning

Right now, however, following social distance protocol isn’t always a picnic. Sure, it’s pretty sweet to skip your commute and attend work meetings in your pajama pants (I won’t tell). And it’s certainly nice to spend more time at home with your partner and children. But what about all the other people who are important to you—your family, friends, and colleagues? If you’re like most people, you’re missing someone terribly right now. Thankfully, the technology of 2020 makes it easy to stay connected when you can’t be in the same room. Let’s look at some ways we can keep in touch with our favorite people until social distancing guidelines are relaxed.

Stay Connected With Apps

There’s never a good time for a pandemic to happen, obviously, and we all wish it hadn’t. But can you imagine it happening forty years ago, before the advent of social media? With no other options, we’d be running up our phone bills on long-distance calls and writing a letter or two. In 2020, at least, we have many great ways to stay in touch.

Conference with diverse colleagues using laptop webcam to stay connected.
Instead Of Sending A Regular Text, You Can Make A Quick Video Of Yourself Saying Hi (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, many of us were texting and using Facebook Messenger apps to communicate with family and friends. Now that we’re all staying home, we can get more creative with the use of our favorite technology. Instead of sending a regular text to your BFF, you might make a quick video of yourself saying hi. Or you can start a giant group text with family or friends and do some overdue catching up. Now, more than ever, it’s important for everyone’s mental health.

In addition to the social media apps we all know and love, social distancing has introduced many of us to new technology. Many of us are working or attending school via a video call app like Zoom, which hosts chats of up to 100 users. Google Meet (formerly Google Hangouts) offers a similar service. If you’re looking for a free program, check out Skype, which allows up to fifty participants.

These video apps make it easy to connect with your family and friends for group chats—ones that feel much more personal than SMS texts. Here are some ideas to make your sessions fun and memorable:

  • Have a virtual happy hour, and share your favorite cocktail recipes (and a few secrets for avoiding hangovers). 
  • Host a karaoke party. All your favorite tunes are available (and free) as karaoke tracks on YouTube! 
  • Start a virtual book club. Let a different member choose a new book each session.
  • Gather your favorite foodies for a cooking/baking chat. Here’s a great place to share the new recipes you’ve been trying during quarantine!

Host A Netflix Party

Have you been missing those stress-busting weeknight TV sessions with your crew during the quarantine? If so, check out Netflix Party, which lets you host a group chat as you watch together. It’s a great way to enjoy your favorite shows and movies with friends, even if you can’t share a couch for a little while. There’s no time like the present to binge-watch a new series, and everything’s more fun with a friend (or three).

Hand holding a remote control to watch a movie.
Netflix Party Lets You Host A Group Chat As You Watch Together (Image Source: Shutterstock)

And if you’re looking for a way to stay connected with a special someone during quarantine, this could be it! If you can’t hold hands and share popcorn, a Netflix party for two could be the next best thing. You might even order from your favorite date-night restaurant to make it dinner and a movie. (Note: the FDA says it’s currently safe to order takeout or curbside pickup. Just use best hygiene and social distancing practices when you do. Bonus: by ordering dinner, you’ll be helping to keep a small business afloat during the crisis!)

Connect The (Relatively) Old-Fashioned Way

While all this new technology is pretty great, you could see this time as an opportunity to step back a little. Nowadays, we’re used to sending a text here and there, replying to the sender when it’s convenient. That means we’re always talking, but it’s often not a deep connection. Use your extra time to rediscover the almost-lost art of catching up on the phone. There’s something much more meaningful about hearing a friend’s voice, their laugh, their unique speech patterns. You also might use Skype or FaceTime for one-to-one video chats with friends whose faces you miss seeing.

Woman on facetime sitting on a couch.
There’s Something Much More Meaningful About Hearing A Friend’s Voice (Image Source: Shutterstock)

And while we’re practicing social distancing, you might take the time to send some real mail to your loved ones. You can purchase cute and funny greeting cards and stamps online and have them delivered to your home. Or you can use an app like Ink to send a beautiful, custom photo postcard to someone special. It’s a win-win: it’s fun to send good, old-fashioned snail mail, and it’s a nice surprise for the receiver, too!

We’re (Still) All In This Together

Look, I know nothing replaces spending time in person with the people you love. We’re all feeling it right now. But until the pandemic is over, we simply have to do the best we can with the resources we have. The more we as a society commit to flattening the curve, the sooner we’ll be able to return to normal social behavior. Can you imagine how good it will feel to hug someone for the first time in weeks?

For now, we all have to continue to take things one day at a time. We’re here for you every step of the way. Please check out our response to COVID-19 from last month and know that we continue to be here to support you in any way we can.

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