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How to Socialize While Social Distancing

Tyler Michaels

Tyler Michaels, Team Marketing Coordinator, is a graduate of Penn State where he earned a bachelor's degree in business marketing...

Tyler Michaels, Team Marketing Coordinator, is a graduate of Penn State where he earned a bachelor's degree in business marketing...

Mar 18 6 minutes read

With hundreds of millions of Americans hunkered down under widespread work-from-home and social-distancing directives, it can be tricky to sustain your social life (and mental health). Suddenly that dinner with friends you were looking forward to has been cancelled, and forget going to the movies or heading to the gig you scored tickets for months ago. Although maintaining personal and public health and safety is the most important thing, it’s still dispiriting to see your social life vaporized.

Here’s the good news, and it’s something that those of us who were raised on the Internet have known for years: It’s possible to have a bustling social life through digital platforms. And in these bizarre times, it’s more important than ever to set up those channels sooner rather than later. Here are a few tried-and-true tips for maintaining a social life while still adhering to social-distancing norms.

1. Establish a Low-Pressure Chat Environment

You might already have a group text going with your friends (and possibly one with your family, one with your other friends, a secret one with your siblings that your parents don’t know about…), but consider moving to a platform that has more-advanced tools and controls. Slack and Discord are both popular and free (or free enough), and they let you set up channels, so people can talk about specific topics without everything devolving into a head-spinning tornado of GIFs and chatter. That way, if you want to keep politics and COVID-19 talk sequestered to a certain channel, you can, and then have another one for pictures of pets and kids, another for sharing what you’re listening to, and so on. 

PRO TIP: One of the most fundamental parts of building a digital community is creating the space for people to gather, talk, and feel safe. 

2. Share an Online Movie Night with Friends

It turns out that watching a movie while dunking on it with friends is just as good online as it is in person (plus no arguing over snacks and drinks). How to handle a group watch depends a bit on the platform you’re using. You can use a Facebook Watch Party, but the video has to already be uploaded to Facebook, so you’ll mostly be limited to public domain titles. On Discord, you can set up a screen share for up to 50 people, so one person can play a movie on their screen, and everyone else can watch it (and play Statler and Waldorf in the comments). There are other options, too—some people use Twitch, or Kast. But maybe the easiest thing is for everyone to pull up a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime and hit play at the same time, while chatting over group text, Discord, or Slack. 

PRO TIP: Netflix is now offering Netflix Party, an app enabling people to chat via text through a separate window on their computer while streaming content on Netflix.  

3. Take Your Board Games Digital

If you already have a board game that you and your friends love to play, the simplest option might just be to look for the digital or mobile edition of it. Most of the board games that Wirecutter recommends (here and here) have Android and iOS versions, and will let you play cross-platform. These are partly designed for asynchronous play, but if you want to retain the feeling from a true board game night of everyone playing at once, I recommend having a conference call going with your friends on speakerphone, so everyone can make the “wood for sheep” Catan joke again. 

PRO TIP: If you’re looking to branch out, there are a great number of newbie-friendly games that can be played remotely (or semi-remotely). If one of your friends owns any of the astonishingly good Jackbox Party Games for their computer, they can share their screen via Zoom, Discord, Google Hangouts, or another platform, and everyone else can contribute from their phones. 

4. Have a Digital Happy Hour

Shifting your after-work drinks, midday coffee run, or other social gathering onto a video platform may take some getting used to if you’re more accustomed to sharing an order of mozzarella sticks over a happy hour beer special. But once you adapt, you’ll find it’s just as fun, and it’s much easier to hear one another, compared with talking over the mediocre cover band playing in the corner of your local. Plus no one has to worry about being the designated driver—you’re already home!

PRO TIP: Combine an online movie night with your digital happy hour! GamesRadar has a list of movie drinking games if you're looking for a hilarious time. Please remember to DRINK RESPONSIBLY! 

5. Shift your Group Workouts to your Home

If you’re a person who thrives in the camaraderie of a workout class, suddenly having to figure out a home workout may sound daunting, as classes are cancelled and people avoid gyms (though it’s not clear exactly how infection-prone gyms are). At home, there’s no instructor to tell you what to do, no cheering one another on, no sweaty high-fives after a brutally long plank. But many trainers will do online coaching, so reach out to your favorite instructor and see if they’d be willing to do group video sessions (they’ll probably be super-grateful to keep their clientele amid a flurry of coronavirus-inspired cancellations). Alternatively, if you already feel like you know what you’re doing, you can arrange a group workout at home, structured around exercises that are easy to do in your own space, like the 7-Minute Workout.

PRO TIP: You don't need dumbbells or a treadmill to get a workout in! Try out the Reddit Body Weight Fitness recommended routine if you don't have access to exercise equipment.

Stay Healthy. Stay Safe.

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