- The coronavirus pandemic has put the US in a social recession.
- Social distancing can spur a state of loneliness – especially for those already struggling with mental health, as many millennials are.
- From virtual beer pong and Zoom dinner dates to “Netflix Party,” here are the best ways to stay connected.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
With social distancing enforced and the need for everyone to stay inside to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, it’s easy to feel lonelier than ever, causing a possible loneliness epidemic, reported Ezra Klein for Vox.
“Social contact and being together in public spaces, whether it’s at the grocery store or a civic space like a park, are all elements that contribute to our collective sense of well-being,” Priya Parker, author of “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, told Vox’s Rebecca Jennings. “When we aren’t able to at least traditionally physically gather in all types of ways, not only celebratory ways, but in our schools, in our places of worship, in our neighbourhood associations, it’s a collective stress to our well-being.”
It can be especially difficult for those who are already dealing with mental health issues, wrote Klein. That’s the case for many millennials; depression and “deaths of despair” were already on the rise among millennials before the pandemic as they grapple with loneliness, money stress, and burnout in the workplace.
But just because we can’t physically be with each other doesn’t mean we can’t emotionally or mentally be together. It’s all about staying connected – which is pretty easy, thanks to technology.
Here are nine ways you can put the social in social distancing.
Zoom, a communications app for video conferencing, has surged in popularity since the coronavirus pandemic. On Saturday night, I used it for the first time for a virtual dinner date with my college roommates.
It took this millennial 10 minutes to figure out Zoom, but I loved it once I got the hang of it. We spent two hours chatting, and it felt like we were in our old apartment back in college. I felt a lot lighter emotionally afterwards, and we plan to make it a weekly thing.
I also had a virtual dinner date last week with a friend who lives in New York City about 40 blocks from me – she’s so close, yet so far in the world of social distancing.
I’m not the only one with the idea.
“Not being able to share meals with friends and family, to gather at others’ tables or pull up more chairs to our own, has been one of the most disconcerting effects of the coronavirus,” wrote Emily Heil for The Washington Post. People from Massachusetts to London are hosting dinner parties, she said.
Zoom is also great if you’re missing regular happy hours with coworkers or city friends — or want to set up a virtual date.
— Jamie Lee Finch (@jamieleefinch) March 16, 2020
People across the nation are meeting online for five-o-clock drinks. Ray A. Smith explored the virtual happy hour trend for The Wall Street Journal.
One person he spoke with, Carl Haley, said he hosted a virtual “Quarantini Party” with friends after cancelling plans due to coronavirus fears, in which they all met on Zoom with martinis in hand. “It turned out to just be amazing,” Haley said.
Kelley Kitley, a psychotherapist and author, told Smith that virtual happy hours are a way “to make some kind of normalcy out of such a not normal situation. To find some ways to have consistency and to have things to look forward to. To schedule a date with somebody that you would have coffee with, but through the phone.”
You don’t need a house party for a good game of beer pong. Business Insider editor-in-chief- Alyson Shontell set up virtual beer pong over the weekend with FaceTime.
This weekend I did my first virtual hangouts and saw friends we rarely get to see for happy hours. I can also confirm that virtual beer pong is possible, you just need 4 phones and facetime – one on each couple, one on each set of cups. pic.twitter.com/Uhpz8cVP6l
— Alyson Shontell (@ajs) March 23, 2020
“This weekend I did my first virtual hangouts and saw friends we rarely get to see for happy hours,” she tweeted. “I can also confirm that virtual beer pong is possible, you just need 4 phones and FaceTime – one on each couple, one on each set of cups.”
Virtual beer pong is the new “Saturday night.”
Working out from home on a day-by-day basis isn’t fun, but you can make it better by virtually working out with others over FaceTime.
I really miss the gym, but I’m making the most of my water gallon jugs as substitute weights. If you have a roommate, consider doing a weekly online workout class together – my roommate and I plan to start a yoga class together this week. There are plenty of YouTube channels, like Fitness Blender, teeming with free at-home workouts. Many fitness studios have also started live-streaming workout classes for free, reported Sophie Lewis for CBS.
I also have an upcoming yoga date with a friend who lives in Pennsylvania. That’s going to involve my phone and my computer – one to play the livestream of the class and the other to FaceTime my friend.
Apart from FaceTime and Zoom, Houseparty is another video app you can use to stay connected. It’s also been seeing a surge in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Houseparty gives a split screen look at callers in the “house” and allows eight people on the call at once, reported Mary Meisenzahl for Business Insider. It also allows you to play game options with whoever you’re video chatting with, such as entertainment trivia.
You can also send a Facemail, which is like leaving a video message for someone that they will get whenever they open the app next.
And a few of my friends recently hopped on Marco Polo, an app that lets you send video messages.
Like Snapchat, Marco Polo lets you send messages that are only a few seconds long. But unlike Snapchat, the app saves videos so you can have a running conversation with your friend or a group of friends.
Marco Polo was created by a company called Joya Communications, which says on its website that its mission is “to help people feel close no matter the distance, enabling people to remain connected in convenient and meaningful ways.”
But staying connected with people doesn’t always need to involve seeing their face, as great as that is. For example, you can start a Google Doc with friends.
Right now, I have two shared Google Docs going on that make me feel connected with others.
One is a running list of social distancing activities and recommendations with friends and friends of friends, ranging from online workouts to podcasts. We all drop our suggestions in there as they come to us.
I also have a Google Doc labelled “Quarantine Diaries” with my roommate. We write in silly quotes or boring things documenting quarantine life. Journaling is a great way to process emotions amid this historic time period, but doing it with my roommate makes it a fun, shared experience rather than an individual one. It also helps us creatively keep in touch if one of us gets sick and has to quarantine ourselves to our room.
There’s also “Netflix Party,” an extension that lets multiple Netflix users watch a show together from different locations.
The extension is only available for Google Chrome browsers. While it’s been around for several years, the extension is gaining renewed attention amid the coronavirus outbreak, reported Charlie Wood for Business Insider. It received an update during the pandemic that added seven extra servers.
You can also play board games online with friends.
Whether you’re living by yourself or just don’t have a decent arsenal of board games, you can always turn online to play games with friends.
A few of my coworkers have found a way to play one of my favourite board games – Settlers of Catan – online. You can play with friends on the computer, a mobile app, or Steam, an online gaming platform.
The same is true of other board games, like Monopoly.