I’ve seen a lot of memes and social media posts recently making jokes about how social distancing is really just a way of life for introverts – and in a lot of ways that’s true. I’ve also seen a lot of messages about how for extroverts, especially those that rely on social interaction as a means of maintaining mental health, this is going to be a particularly rough time. The bottom line is that we’re all going to struggle without our normal routines. Kids are already bored and it’s only day four. Parents are missing daily interaction with work cohorts, chats with other parents in the school pick-up lines or at the bus stop, and social saviors like the monthly book club or girls’ nights.
As humans, we are social creatures at our core and it’s hard to be separated. Times like this remind us just how much we truly do need one another – whether it’s a hug from a friend on a bad day or a visit to the grandparents – our lives are intertwined in important ways.
Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing.
Studies have proven that loneliness brought on by isolation can have serious effects on our physical health. In a time when we’re increasingly concerned about our physical health, it’s more important than ever that we keep our relationships strong. This can mean making phone calls just to say hi. It can mean group video chats with friends and family. Or it might just be texting with a little more frequency.
However you choose to communicate, just remember that whether you’re an introvert who kind of likes the peace and quiet of quarantine, or you’re an extrovert who gazes longingly out the window wishing for a social activity with anyone other than your kids, we all need each other. Social distancing is a chance for the extroverts to slow down and focus on more meaningful interactions and a chance for the introverts to step out of their comfort zone and reach out.
So how can we stay connected while social distancing?
It’s time to get creative. And although we are living in a crazy, upside down world at the moment, we are also living in a unprecedented time of technology. No generation before has had access to so many means of communication. From phones to tablets to computers, we have all the tools we need at our fingertips – literally.
Fortunately, there are a number of services out there that allow us to stay connected individually, as well as in groups. Here are a few of our favorite ways to keep communication and interaction going even when “socially” distant:
1. Host a Netflix Party
Netflix Party is a free Chrome extension that allows you to synchronize video playback and adds group chat to your favorite Netflix shows. In other words, even while social distancing you can still watch your favorite shows or host a movie night with friends or family in real-time, while making comments and chatting.
The only catch is that Netflix Party is only available as an extension on laptops or desktop computers, but considering how often we watch shows on these devices, this shouldn’t be a major obstacle. To add Netflix Party, click the link here and follow the directions. Make sure the other viewers know they will need the extension, as well – then grab the popcorn and get that Gilmore Girls marathon going!
2. Set up a group video chat
Most of us are familiar with video chatting apps like Skype and FaceTime. But you may or may not be aware of their group options. There are tons of free apps out there that allow you to add dozens of people to a video chat, including some already popular social media apps. In other words, you can go ahead and have the book club get together – even if you’re social distancing! Here are some of our favorites:
Facetime allows for video and audio calls to individuals, as well as groups of up to 32 people using mobile data and WiFi. Facetime is free, but only works with Apple devices, so you’ll need to consider something else for your non-Apple friends and family.
WhatsApp is compatible with both Android and iOs (Apple) platforms, making it a good choice for groups with different devices. WhatsApp is free, works worldwide, and allows for groups of up to four people.
Facebook Messenger offers free video calling anywhere in the world for up to six users. Not only is it free, but it can be used on cellular devices, as well as tablets and computers.
Skype allows for groups of up to 50 people domestically or abroad and is free. Best of all, Skype can be used on mobile devices, computers, smart watches, and XBox One.
Google Hangouts offers an easy-to-use option for up to 10 participants worldwide. However, Google Hangouts is only available as a computer extension, so you’ll need to use a laptop or desktop computer. The basic version is free.
Zoom allows for up to 100 people on a video call, which may be a bit of an overkill unless you work from home or have an especially large family. And like Google Hangouts, the basic plan is free and you’ll need to be on a computer to use video chat capabilities.
JusTalk is free for up to 50 video callers and available for iOs and Android users. What’s nice about this app is that it includes includes night vision and games you can all play together.
Snapchat is well-known for it’s fantastically ridiculous filters, but it also allows you to video chat with up to 15 people at once for free using those filters. This can be especially fun for kids!
Instagram is a popular social media app, but it also lets you video chat with up to six people at once – globally and for free.
3. Get a neighborhood scavenger hunt going
If your neighborhood has a group chat, chat room, or any other kind of online forum used for group communication, get everyone to stage a scavenger hunt. Create a list of items and share it with your neighbors. Have everyone picks as many items as they would like to display in a place visible from the street – they can place pictures or cut outs of various items in the window, set up items in the yard, or add a particular decoration to their porch or front walk. Then, you can pick times to drive your family through the neighborhood, or conduct your search while out on a family walk.
Be sure to share the results with one another! You may even consider a prize for the first family to complete the hunt, such as a gift certificate to a local restaurant to be used in the future. Participants can all pitch in $5 via Venmo or Paypal and the funds can be used to buy the prize.
4. Have a game night
Again, technology can be a beautiful thing – and again, thanks to technology, there’s no reason you can’t have fun while being stuck at home. Pogo is an online game site that allows you to connect with friends to play some of your favorite board games (and maybe even discover a few new ones). With a wide range of games, there are plenty of family friendly options, including Yahtzee and Monopoly.
Need some adult time? Try playing Cards Against Humanity (definitely NOT family-friendly!) online with friends. It won’t be as much fun as the real thing, but set up a group video chat to get the laughs going strong.
Here are a few more options:
Settlers of Catan is a game in which players build roads and villages, accumulate resources, and assemble armies in pursuit of victory. The game is available in two modes: Classic lets you play with the exact same rules as the board game, while Catan Anytime offers a stripped-down experience that allows gameplay to take place over days or weeks with not everyone logged on at the same time.
Ticket to Ride is a popular family game in which players race to build train routes across the United States and Canada, earning points for creating specific ones or having extra-long journeys. Ticket to Ride is available for $9.99 online.
However you choose to stay connected, just remember that it’s important. Call your loved ones, remember those in your community that are isolated already, and check in on one another as often as possible. We all know the next few weeks will be tough, but as long as we remember that we’re all in this together, we’ll find ways to support one another – even from a distance.