Whether you are an extrovert, introvert, or someone that toes the border between the two, the undeniable truth holds the same: we, as humans, are social creatures. We thrive from that sense of community, from that sense of togetherness that reminds us that we do not just exist for ourselves as free-floating, but as interconnected splashes of life giving meaning to a greater picture. So, in this time of social distancing where the closest that you can get to most other humans is still six feet away from them, it can become easy to surrender to that feeling of loneliness that additionally weighs down on these already stressful times. But this continued practice of social distancing does not foretell of a darkly disconnected near-future. We are lucky enough to be living through this crisis in times where technology has found a way to interweave our existences in very many ways, no matter the distance. With that in mind, here are five ways to embrace these technological advancements in order to maintain and kindle both new and previously existing connections in this time of social distancing.
- Time to Party (Netflix Party or Other Watch Party Events)
While large social gatherings and more action-filled events and ceremonies are certainly absent during these times and undoubtedly contribute to that sense of disconnect, what many people are missing are more simple things like sitting on the same couch in silence and enjoying a shared silence in the presence of a great (or not so great) film. In other words: movie night. While technology has not evolved as far as having the ability to project spectral images of our absent companions onto the couch cushion next to us, the creation of watch parties stands as a powerful substitute for a shared movie-watching experience that is just not feasible as an in-person activity as of right now. By synchronizing video playback and adding a group chat, installing a program such as Netflix Party is a fantastic way to stay connected with friends whilst social distancing. It’s amazing how the seemingly simple act of laughing, crying, and reacting to the same screen experience in real-time can foster that feeling of togetherness even when your companions are watching miles away. And watch parties aren’t limited to just movie nights! Watch live concerts, seminars, or chat with some of your most-watched influencers on their livestreams via YouTube, Instagram, or even Twitch. No matter how you use these watch parties, they all still foster that sense of community and connectivity by providing a shared experience that you can revel in with other watchers no matter the distance.
- FaceTime & Zoom & Facebook Messenger (Oh My!)
Sometimes, you may just want to say hi to someone or not eat your dinner alone. If that’s the case, most social media platforms and applications have the ability to video message your friends and family on a regular basis. These are features that you can make the most of right now if you are becoming overwhelmed with the sensation of missing someone. While it definitely cannot ever replace the feeling of having that person right next to you, it is tremendously comforting just to be in the presence and attention of someone you hold close to your heart. Try setting up a designated time for virtual hangouts like Monday Game Nights with your close friends or Sunday Brunch time with your family. Call someone for their birthday, to rant about that last episode of that show you were watching, or just simply to hear their voice and see their face. Whether or not there is an organized activity attached to the call, the reminder that you are never truly alone is always a welcome one that is sure to shine some light into the darkness.
- Watch and Learn (Online Classes)
One of the more interesting modes of social interaction involves the shared experience of learning a new skill. And, with the increased amount of time that we have been handed now, why not lean into those typically shelved ideas and inclinations to sharpen old skills or pick up new ones? Join a virtual yoga session or learn how to cook up a new dish with online cooking classes. Websites such as MasterClass even provide courses taught by some of the greatest names in music, film, writing, business, politics and more! Most online classes also promote and stimulate online communication amongst students, which contributes to fostering the sense of community that can be missing during these times.
- Creativity Is (Also) Contagious
While artistic expression may not commonly be taken to be a very social act, the experience of creating something that you are proud of and subsequently sharing it with the world can be an unparalleled mood booster that does still hold roots in social connection. A significant part of loneliness stems from not knowing how our thoughts, feelings, and beings fit into the greater world picture. By creating something—be it bread or poetry or music—you channel your energy and feelings into tangible expression. By sharing it online with your friends, family, or even with strangers you put those expressions out to be reacted to and interpreted which keeps you in touch with your own identity as well as with others. So partake in a writing prompt challenge online or take pictures of each of your #Quarantreats and post them on your Instagram or Facebook. Artistic expression is as freeing as it is connecting, giving you a way to identify and speak with others through more than mere conversation.
- Choose Kindness (Virtual Volunteering & Continuing Acts of Kindness)
Just because we are stuck inside does not mean that we must then miss out on the social acts of kindness that typically remind us of the beauties of humanity. There are plenty of virtual volunteering opportunities that continue to be available online in order to provide you with that sense that you are contributing to your community and are continuing to have impact from within your home. Alongside these virtual volunteering acts, now is not the time to overlook those small acts of kindness in the ways that they still can be enacted. Just offering to pick up some groceries for your elderly neighbor or dropping off baked goods at your friend’s house can not only contribute to your own sense of social connectivity, but also to others’ as a reminder that someone is always thinking of them. In times that can feel so lonely, it is comforting to know that even one person is thinking of you and those small acts of kindness will act as kindling for the fire that will keep the darkness at bay with warmth and light. Connection centered in kindness is potent—its transformative powers can turn even the bleakest of situations into ones that are full of hope and happy memories.