Humans are generally social beings. We tend to be happiest when we are part of a community. But right now, most of us have found ourselves stuck at home, away from friends and family. Naturally, this is an anxious and isolating time for many. However, thanks to some technological advances, it doesn’t have to feel that way all the time. Through the wonders of the internet, there are plenty of ways to stay connected with your friends during this period of isolation.
This one basically goes without saying, since approximately 2.65 billion people already use social media to stay connected. You may be confined to your homes, but you can continue to share memes on Facebook, like selfies on Instagram, retweet on Twitter, and scroll through Reddit. Social media is there to engage as much or as little as you want.
Video Chat Sessions
For a more real-time interaction with your friends, start a video chat session to bring your group text to life. Most laptops and phones already come equipped with a camera, so video chats are easier than ever (don’t worry, desktop users—webcams are still a thing too. Just download one of a plethora of apps like Google Duo, Skype, Facetime, or Facebook Messenger, and get the chat room going.
From there, you’re only limited by your collective imagination. Sure, you could have a normal conversation, but maybe you want to stage a dramatic reading of a play. You could also hold an intense Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament. Tarot card readings, Truth or Dare, puppet shows, intimate concerts. Even those still looking to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this weekend could raise a glass (responsibly) for a virtual toast. There’s a lot you can do on a video chat.
If working from home isn’t an option for you during this period of social distancing, you’ve likely got a considerable amount of free time at the moment. This could be a good opportunity to learn something new, which, in turn, could be a chance to be more social. You and your friends could choose a free self-paced course from edX or Skillshare and take it together. You could form a digital study group to make sure that you understand the material, or just discuss all the cool things that you’re learning about. Potential topics include: structural engineering, American poetry, gender studies, Mandarin, or the impact of superheroes on pop culture—seriously, these are all real class topics and that last one was taught by the late, great Stan Lee. Where else can you get insight like that?
Since the 1980s, video games have been bringing people together by letting them play with or against each other online. From classic PC games like “Starcraft”, “Counter-Strike”, and “EverQuest” to more modern console games like “Call of Duty”, “Animal Crossing”, or “Fortnite”, you might even say that these games are perfect for social distancing. And the majority of PlayStation and Xbox games find a way to incorporate online play these days as well. Just send out the call and meet up with your friends in the virtual world of your choosing.
But in the event that someone in your group doesn’t have a console to game with or you’re just looking for other game night options, they are out there as well. A number of sites will let you play board games like chess, Scrabble, Monopoly, and Risk with your friends for free. If you want to get a cyber session of Cards Against Humanity started, Pretend You’re Xyzzy is the answer. And fans of Dungeons & Dragons or other tabletop games can assemble a party on Roll20.net. Filled with resources for players of all skill levels, Roll20 digitizes character sheets, maps, dice, and the table. It allows you to build your own game from scratch, buy a ready-to-play game, or join someone else’s game.
Virtual Watch Parties
Have you ever tried to watch a movie or show with a friend over the phone or video chat by trying to press play at the exact same time? If you have, then you know that ads and buffering time can make this process pretty tedious. Thankfully, there are a number of websites and apps available that will help you with this previously perilous task. The two most user-friendly options are Netflix Party and Kast.
Netflix Party is a Chrome extension that creates a screening room for you to share whatever you’re watching on Netflix with whomever has the link to enter. It also includes a simple chat interface, so you and your friends can make comments about whatever you’re watching in real-time.
Kast basically does the same thing, except it isn’t limited to Netflix. Within this app, you can share your screen with 100 or more friends. It also supports video, voice, and text chatting. Although, I can’t imagine that your watch party would appreciate it if you talk over the movie.
How are you staying social while maintaining social distancing? Have you found technology to be helpful during your self-quarantine? Let us know in the comments!