How to Stay Connected to Your Friends While Social Distancing

Wellness in Emergency Medicine: Staying connected while social distancing during COVID-19

How to Stay Connected to Your Friends While Social Distancing

Staying connected with friends and family can be difficult under current quarantine guidelines, and it can be challenging to come up with creative ways to keep in touch with those you love. The need for social distancing and awareness about what that entails has increased dramatically since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People who may not have felt sick but were unlucky hosts for the virus went about business as usual. They went to restaurants to eat with their family, met a friend to see their favorite band at a concert, or took their children on a family trip to the zoo.

As the situation progressed, we began to realize how easily the virus can be transmitted from person to person, and just how lethal this silent predator really is. Travel restrictions were put in place, non-essential business began to shut down, schools moved classes to online e-learning, and public gatherings sports events and museums postponed or cancelled the event altogether.

In an already tenuous and stressful situation, these restrictions on public gatherings and travel left a need for individuals to replace their usual entertainment activities with safer, virtual options.

Luckily, many businesses and institutions recognized this need across the board and are making various entertainment and wellness resources available online. From game nights to museum exhibits to free book readings, there are a now a vast selection of resources that people can use to stay connected to family and friends while we collectively fight COVID-19.

Remote Game Night: One idea is to host a remote game night. Various games are available online or as a free app, including Catan, Scrabble, and Guess the Spy. Charades and Pictionary can be accessed here. You can also join your friends or family for a game of cards over Skype or Zoom. Need more ideas? Check out this article on the Boston Globe’s website.

Cooking Virtually Together: For the culinary enthusiasts, you can connect with your friends and family by choosing a recipe from the Bon Appetit or New York Times Cooking Channels. Spend time cooking the recipe and sharing a meal together over Skype or Zoom. Miss joining your friends for happy hour? Bon Appetit has a virtual solution for that too.

Arts and Entertainment: For those interested in the arts and humanities, institutions the Globe Theatre are offering recordings of plays from authors Shakespeare that are available for viewing online. Stream the Metropolitan Opera or visit Broadway online.

If you’re a reader, Audible offers hundreds of titles completely free to access on their platform in an effort to help during the COVID-19 crisis.

Instead of going to the movie theater, you can host a Netflix party—just download the Netflix Party browser extension to watch TV shows and movies in real time with your friends and family.

Staying Connected: There are many virtual platforms available to host meetings, book clubs, or gatherings. Try Zoom, WebEx, Live, and more. Social media apps Tik-Tok or Marco Polo allow people to send short video chat messages to friends and family.

Celebrating Others: Many people may be looking for how to make their loved one’s birthday special. Consider decorating your home with signs, organize a drive-by car parade to honk and sing, order a birthday sign to be placed in your yard, or host a Zoom Birthday party with cake and singing of happy birthday with friends/family.

Home Projects: At home, think about projects you have always wanted to tackle organizing photos, hanging pictures, cleaning out closets or scrap booking.

Are there hobbies you have always wanted to learn or practice? You can build LEGO creations, try knitting or crocheting, read, journal write, and paint. Many stores offer online shopping with either delivery or curbside pick up, such as Michaels to get supplies.

And as spring arrives, plan to spend time outside to clean out the garage or work in the yard or garden.

Fun and Educational Activities for Children: There are a variety of fun and/or educational online activities you can do with your children at home. Build in a routine for your kids and use some of these options. Places the San Diego Zoo offer a website just for kids where with videos, activities, and games.

There are even live cameras where you can check on all of the animals in the zoo. Discovery Education offers virtual field trips, which cover topics Polar Bears and the Tundra, Social/Emotional Skills, Manufacturing, and more! Museums all over the world are moving to virtual tours you can take with your family from the comfort and safety of your home.

You can travel to Paris, France, to see amazing works of art housed at The Louvre or take a trip into the past down the Great Wall of China. Mo Willems, best-selling children’s author hosts a lunch time drawing session for children, posted each weekday at 1 p.m. EST.

Many neighborhoods have started scavenger hunts for kids by placing an item in the window for them to find such as a heart, or bear or smiley face. This can be coordinated among neighbors.

Be creative and use your social distancing and time at home to the fullest. Keep engaged and connected to your family and friends. Cultivate those relationships while finding fun and unique ways to stay connected during COVID-19.


5 Ways to Use Social Media for Connection During Times of Social Distancing

How to Stay Connected to Your Friends While Social Distancing

With governments implementing strict policies to maintain social distancing due to Coronavirus, you do not have a choice but to abide by these self-isolation regulations to control the spread of this pandemic.

But it isn’t easy for you to sit at home in isolation.

Especially if you’re so used to meeting everyone at work and hanging out with friends.

The current circumstances caused by the Coronavirus can be mentally stressful and draining and may cause anxiety for many.

But we are lucky to be a part of a generation where technology has enhanced so much, giving us plentiful online forums for social interactions.

Social media, in itself, is a huge blessing for all of us to stay connected virtually, if not physically.

Your health matters.

Therefore, to keep you healthy from the expected drawbacks of social isolation, here are a few ways in which you can stay safe at home during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Yet, you’ll still be able to connect to your social circle through social media forums and a handful of other options.

How to Use Social Media to Help With Social Distancing

The internet is a blessing in disguise in these Coronavirus days where you are working from home, and are not allowed to leave your house to meet friends and family.

For your mental health and well-being, you must not let the anxiety that is being caused by this physical distance overpower your mind.

But how do you stay sane during social distancing?

Consider using the following platforms or tools to connect with your family and friends.

1. Use Social Media or Zoom to Catch up With Friends & Family Members

Almost all the social media websites and applications today offer this feature where you can video chat with your friends and family.

You can even have a group video chat with more than 2 people on most of the social media platforms out there.

You might be in quarantine and start feeling a little restless, but through these applications, you can stay connected with the people who matter the most every day, even if you are video calling them just to say hi.

Imagine having your morning coffee with a friend over , Instagram, or Zoom.

It’s definitely going to be an instant mood-lifter in times of social isolation. It is especially true for people who feed off of interacting with people.

If you would check the most trending Instagram and Snapchat stories, people are sharing images of themselves video chatting on Zoom, Skype, Instagram, and even WhatsApp.

Here’s a screenshot of an Instagram story showing multiple friends video chatting with each other during the quarantine.

Zoom is one of the best apps that you can use for this purpose.

The best part is that it offers a full-featured Basic Plan for free with unlimited meetings.

If you still can’t decide how to go about your day or you’re feeling alone at home try some of the tips below.

Here is what you can do, using either social media or apps Zoom, to connect virtually with your loved ones.

  • Create a time for all of your friends and family to connect. For instance, make a video call to your family at breakfast, while you both can have breakfast at the same time but in different places. This will help you feel connected and happy that you are not alone.
  • Want to celebrate good news, a promotion, a birthday, or even an achievement as small as nailing a recipe? Video call your friends while you are at it, tell them it’s a celebration party, and then party together virtually through these social media platforms.
  • Don’t want to cook alone, eat alone, or watch the TV alone? Connect virtually with your family and friends. Watch the same shows while staying online at the same time, feeling their presence through your laptop or your phone.

You have the entire internet to yourself, make the most of it!

2. Host or Join Live Watch Parties

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused many events to be called off as larger gatherings are discouraged during this phase.

And therefore, people are missing out on a lot of events that they would have been attending otherwise, including concerts and seminars.

If you are someone who was hosting a concert, or a party, or even an informative seminar, then you can host ‘Watch Parties’, and let people join these watch parties virtually and have fun within their apartments.

Here’s an example to show how it works…

Grand Ole Opry did not allow any live audience for their show, but this did not keep them from entertaining music fans who loved the show.

They still hosted the show live on March 21, entertaining all the fans who watched the show on their televisions.

If you are a DIY maker, then this has to be the best way to pass your time by engaging your audience and showing them how you make your DIYs.

Marketers, on the other hand, can carry out informative watch parties, where they can interact with their audience, answer their questions, and help them through any query.

Many schools and universities carry out online classes to make sure that the students do not miss out on their regular learning.

Such applications Zoom can be fruitful sources to make students interact with one another on educational topics or otherwise.

3. Host Virtual Events & Invite Your Friends

A number of people had birthdays and weddings planned for these months, which unfortunately will not be taking place in large gatherings any more since Coronavirus is spreading pretty quickly.

But that should not stop you from celebrating your happiness through virtual forums, right?

You can plan virtual events, invite several people to join you online, and just have a ball!

A friend hosted an online virtual event called “Coconuts and COMEBACKS.”

It was a live stream of his event, virtually connecting 40 people together and not letting the Coronavirus pandemic put their morale down.

His status later showed how immensely happy he was after hosting this event, which is exactly how you would feel once you host a virtual event for your friends and family.

And if not host, you can at least be a part of the fun and feel happy about not missing out on the little happy moments of your life.

If you put your mind to it, you can always find your way through it.

4. Use FaceTime or Messenger to Connect With Friends & Family

If you are an Apple user, now is the best time to connect with your family using FaceTime.

And all Android users out there, you can opt for Messenger, which is yet another amazing online application that keeps you connected with your family and friends who are far away, quarantined in their own homes.

Life in isolation is not a piece of cake for all.

While some might be enjoying the freedom of sleep-eat-repeat, there comes a time where everyone feels that this is mentally exhausting to be living within the four walls and interacting with no one outside the house.

This is the reason why such apps help you network with your friends and family at any time of the day. And even when you all are stuck in your own homes, you can still feel connected virtually through the internet.

The emotional support that one gets from a family member or a friend is incomparable.

And during this stressful time of being locked down and under the attack of a virus that is spreading so quickly, a virtual call from a loved one can help you get through the day positively.

So use your gadgets, call your parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors, and keep yourself mentally occupied for your own well-being.

5. Create a Netflix Party

Before being locked down in isolation, everyone had movie nights with family and friends, where you would eat popcorn while you watch and laugh together.

Since you cannot do that anymore, this is something that is missed by many these days.

Here is a piece of good news for you.

You can still do that virtually by creating a Netflix Party.

It is something not everyone is aware of.

You can create a Netflix party with your family and friends, and even when you are physically distant, you can virtually enjoy a movie night together.

Remember That You Are Not Alone

This is probably the first time, in a very long time, that almost one-third of the world has been negatively affected by a disease.

It is not easy to accept the fact that our lives have changed overnight, where we cannot even think about leaving our house to meet our loved ones in fear of Coronavirus.

It is in the best interests of the people around you and yourself that you maintain this social distance and avoid any physical interaction with the people around you.

Everyone is going through this, and everyone knows how lonely it may feel.

Thus, it is very important to connect with your ‘people’ through these tough times virtually.

Every human being acts differently in such situations.

You might see people who are more than happy in isolation, while there might be others who are going through anxiety all on their own, with no one to give them a helping hand.

Be their helping hand, but only virtually.

Connect with them, call them regularly, video call them, check on them when they don’t message or call you in days, and just try to make sure that this social distancing is not harming their mental health in any way.

Social distancing can be a significant change for people who are all about socializing. And those are the individuals that you need to take care of the most during these weeks and months.

Since everyone is distracting themselves using social media platforms and interacting on all the social media apps, let’s not forget those elderly people who are probably too feeble and are not aware of how the technology works.

Help them through this as well.

If you have grandparents or neighbors who are old, then call them up often and help them virtually.

Ask them if they need anything, or if they want to talk to someone.

Help them connect with you virtually.

Elderly people long for company, and during these Coronavirus days, it is vital that you accompany them virtually by video calling them often during the days and making sure they are healthy and doing well.

You Come First

While you are helping others maintain their sanity, do not lose yours.

Your mental health is as important as theirs.

Don’t stress yourself out, and don’t hide what you are feeling just to keep others mentally stable.

We often need help when we are socially and physically distant from the world.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to people for help.

For instance, if you need to talk to someone right now, just call them and speak to them.

Tell them about your anxieties, if you are feeling any.

Venting helps ease the stress out.

Try to keep your mental health at a top priority because only a healthy you can help others.

Wrapping Up

The world might be stuck in a crisis because of Coronavirus, but do not let this pandemic put you down in any way.

You are stronger than this and can make the most of your time at home, being more productive.

Use your time wisely, make the most of it and help others as well through this crucial time.

Nobody is sure about how long it will take for Coronavirus pandemic to end.

We do hope it is soon that this social distancing policy lifts up, and we can live our normal lives outside our homes without the fear of catching the virus.

However, let’s also be prepared for what might be our life for a while.

People’s lives have been influenced drastically by this virus, and mostly in a negative manner.

Now it is up to you, how you can mold this change into a more positive one, and set an example for others who are feeling hopeless right now to make the most this opportunity of being physically isolated.


Together we can, together we will!

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, March 2020


Why You Need to Stay Connected While Social Distancing

How to Stay Connected to Your Friends While Social Distancing

Most people have a strong drive to stay connected to other people. This fact is closely related to what psychologist Roy Baumeister calls “the need to belong.” Baumeister’s work shows how most people actively seek out opportunities to belong to a group. 

But that is difficult to do when we need to be “socially distancing” ourselves from other people in order to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, some people are suggesting that we refer to our response to the coronavirus as “physical distancing” instead of social distancing. The idea is that you can be physically distant from someone while remaining socially close.

Ironically, though, there is a fair bit of cognitive science research suggesting that our minds naturally tend to conflate physical distance with social distance.

According to conceptual metaphor theory, the way we use our everyday metaphors when we talk indicates that we tend to treat intimacy as closeness (Gibbs, 2011; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999).

Therefore, even calling it merely “physical distancing” can still unintentionally evoke a sense of social distance along with it.

Rather than concentrating on how we refer to the necessary distancing that we are all engaging in, perhaps we should instead concentrate on how we can alleviate the detrimental effects it will have. The solution is actually simple; you just have to turn it into a habit. As novelist E.M. Forster put it, “Only connect.”

The many varied connections that arise between people (or any set of subsystems) are often more interesting and important than the people (or subsystems) themselves. As Martin Buber wrote, “When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”

While sheltering in place and social distancing during these next several months, all you need to do is reach out technologically to your family and friends a little more frequently than you used to. Call, text, and email them regularly.

Play party games or have drinks together over video chat. (The Japanese are calling that “On-Nomi.”) You need to keep your social skills in good shape. You need to keep your ability to trust in good working order. You need to stay connected.

Not just for you, but for other people too.

Being connected is something that happens everywhere, not just in human relationships. Two pendulum clocks will fall into synchrony even when they aren’t touching each other, as long as they are resting on the same wooden beam.

Two animals will transmit yawn contagion to one another, as long as they see each other as part of the same tribe. And two humans will exhibit some correlation in the sway of their postures, as long as they are talking to each other. When these two subsystems become coordinated, they function a bit  one system.

They become something more than just a pair of interacting animals; they become a dyad. 

For living organisms, you and me, this coordination and joint systemhood is essential for physical and mental health. In your brain, there are many tightly-knit networks of neurons that stay healthy and productive only when they are sending electrochemical signals back-and-forth to each other in a relatively steady fashion.

Not enough signal flow, and the cells will atrophy and die. Too much signal overflow, and you get a “neural avalanche,” or an epileptic seizure. In your arms and legs, a tightly-knit network of muscles and tendons stays healthy and productive only when they pull back-and-forth on one another in a relatively steady fashion.

Too much imbalance in that pulling, and you sprain something.

Just as with the biological systems of the body, the biological system of a tightly-knit human community stays healthy and productive only when people are interacting with each other in a relatively steady fashion. None of us s it when we sprain something in our social relationships. Too much isolation, and the thin veneer of trust and shared purpose can begin to fall apart.

You may not quite realize how many little interactions you used to have with other people as you went about your daily routine at work or at school. Even just taking one second to hold a door open for someone who happens to be walking behind you is an interaction that provides scaffolding for our mutual social trust.

Lev Vygotsky developed the concept of “scaffolding” a century ago, primarily in the context of education. There are certain things that a child cannot learn on their own, and that learning needs to be scaffolded by a teacher or parent.

But the concept can be generalized to everyday interactions between people as well.

When a person you don’t know is walking through a door ahead of you and they take a second to hold the door open for you, that serves as a lesson for how to engage in our social contract of mutual trust and shared purpose.

These tiny little interactions in everyday physical closeness and social closeness serve as a kind of social scaffolding to keep us all well practiced at treating each other as part of our in-group – even when we look different from each other. This kind of social scaffolding is fundamental to early brain development (Tottenham, 2015), to expert-novice interactions (Mascolo, 2005), and even to the healthcare industry (Mamykina et al., 2008).

In my new book, Who You Are: The Science of Connectedness, I encourage you to take advantage of as wide a social scaffolding as you can get your hands on, and thus make all of humanity your in-group. Now that all of humanity clearly has a vicious common enemy, the coronavirus, it is especially important to treat all humans as your in-group.

Not just your family. Not just your friends. Not just your country. But all of humanity. That may be the only way we can beat this pandemic. Now, if you want to place harmful viruses in your out-group, then, by all means, be my guest.

After all, when you wash your hands or use hand sanitizer, you’re murdering millions of virus cells; that pretty much makes your position clear.

When that mutual trust and shared purpose break down, bad things happen in society. We’ll tackle that in my next post.