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How to Stay Connected with People When You Can’t Leave the House

A girl calling her friends using videochat on her phone.
Dragon Images/Shutterstock

If most of your social experiences were structured around face-to-fact time (and not, you know, Facetime video), you might be struggling right now. Here are eight ways to stay connected and social.

The CDC’s guidelines to reduce the spread of the coronavirus include “social distancing,” which is exactly what it sounds like. For the time being, you’ll want to avoid large gatherings—and ideally, even small ones—so you and the people around you are less likely to get infected.

Social distancing works well in this situation, because people can be contagious even if they don’t have symptoms. However, even though the wisdom of it is easy to see, social distancing can feel unpleasant to all but the most reclusive. Even small gatherings among friends aren’t advised right now, which can leave everyone feeling pretty lonely.

But the good news is this: we live in an age of constant connectivity. Even while you’re not seeing your friends and family members in person, there are ways to stay connected—yes, better ones than scrolling through their Instagram posts. Here are our favorite ways to stay connected with our loved ones from afar during this difficult time.

Watch a Show Together

Fans of the vintage rom-com When Harry Met Sally will remember this classic scene: the two titular characters watch a movie “together” from separate apartments, talking on the phone the entire time.

The modern version of that, of course, is hopping on a group chat with your besties while streaming the latest hit show. In fact, if the show is on Netflix, you can even set up a chatroom using Netflix Party so everyone can hang out in a virtual room while watching a perfectly synced copy of the show.

Get your group together, vote on a show to watch, and pick a weekly day and time to watch it. Then, you can chime in with your thoughts in real time, making the viewing experience a lot less lonely.

Play Games Remotely

Boardgame lovers, don’t fret—many versions of your favorite games are also available in online or app form. A casual game can break up a long day alone with some positive interaction.

Words With Friends is a perennial classic that even the most non-tech-savvy people tend to enjoy, making it the ideal game to try with your parents or grandparents. Draw Something, a social drawing game, is similarly simple and fun. Both of those games got a well-deserved shoutout in our roundup of fun social games to play on your phone.

Meanwhile, younger people might opt for Fortnite or Pokémon Go (both have fallen a little out of trend, but might see a resurgence thanks to social distancing).

If you and your friends are more artsy types, why not try an online game of Exquisite Corpse? Each person writes one paragraph of a story, using only the last sentence of the previous person’s paragraph to guide the plot. Use a shared Google doc instead of a piece of paper, remember the order you wrote in, and add all of your contributions to the shared doc at the end to read your Surrealist masterpiece.

These classics aside, there are also countless other niche games available online, which will meet just about anyone’s interests. Want something a little more timely? You can even play Pandemic from your phone or computer—it’s available for iOS and Android devices, as well as on the computer.

Start a Book Club

Man reading a book for his digital book club.

As long as online deliveries aren’t being canceled, there’s nothing to stop you and your friends from buying a copy of the same book, reading it chapter by chapter, and discussing it in the group chat or by video at designated times.

Plus, lots of people will have extra free time thanks to canceled commutes and delayed work shifts. Reading is a great way to occupy that time, and a book club turns it into a social activity!

Send Old-Fashioned Letters

If you really want a new way to connect with the people you love, going full analog with letters and postcards is a great way to do it. When’s the last time you wrote a letter or card by hand and actually sent it through the mail?

Don’t sweat over writing a long literary letter if that’s not your style. A postcard filled with inside jokes and stickers will brighten someone’s day just as much. Plus, this is a great way to use those old postcards or holiday cards that are gathering dust in your desk.

Have a Shopping Date

If all your canceled plans leave you with some spare cash, you can support your favorite online businesses with a virtual shopping date.

Set aside an hour when you and your friends are free, then spend the time shopping online “together.” Send screenshots of what you’re looking at to the group chat and ask for advice as needed. Share discount codes you find at your fave stores.

Even if not everyone springs for a purchase, it’ll still be a good time! And, if you don’t actually want to spend money, you can also set a goal of finding the most ridiculous or the most expensive thing to share with the group for laughs.

Start a Remote Happy Hour Club

Woman drinking a beer during a remote happy hour with her friends.

Stocks of sanitizer and toilet paper may be running low, but your local grocery store probably still has booze. Why not hit up happy hour with your friends virtually?

Pick a weekly day and time for your happy hour (such as Fridays at 5), connect via video, and have a drink with each other remotely while you talk about the highs and lows of your workweek. It gives you something to look forward to, even if you’re not sidling up to a barstool in person.

Sign Up for an Online Class Together

You can learn nearly anything your heart desires online these days. Try online college courses, arts and crafts classes, or whatever your friends can collectively decide on. Taking the course together is a great way to stay motivated in your online class, while making good use of your downtime during the pandemic.

Experiment with Photo Editing

Photoshop and similar photo editing apps can be very useful. Sometimes, you may want to edit an ugly piece of trash out of a picture, or brighten up a dark image. However, they can also be a lot of fun, once you discover all the surreal and silly effects you can create.

If you find yourself with lots of downtime and some creative energy to burn, try swapping photos with your friends and seeing who can come up with the coolest or most ridiculous edits. You just might find that your photo editing skills will come in handy long after the coronavirus pandemic ends.

Of course, hanging out remotely will never feel quite the same as hanging out in person. But in times that require social distancing, these ideas will give you some much-needed connection without putting anyone at risk. Plus, you’ll get to know a different side of your loved ones with these creative activities—so don’t wait to try one of these new rituals while you’re stuck at home!

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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