Staying social while social distancing can be a challenge, especially for folks who are naturally extroverted and crave lots of social interaction. However, just because we cannot be physically present in each other’s lives, that doesn’t mean we have to lose our sense of kinship and interdependence. Let’s get creative about the ways we generate feelings of connection and empathy. Here are four ways to socialize without leaving your room.
1. Virtual Pen Pals
They may be somewhat old-school, but banish the belief that emails belong in business-only-territory. Emails are especially good for keeping in contact with folks who don’t use Skype or FaceTime. Besides that, email is a great contact option for symptomatic folks who find that talking aggravates their respiratory issues. The thoughtfulness that goes into writing a long letter creates more intimacy than texting, and there is something comforting about the semiformal structure and formatting. Use this time to reach out to people you may have lost touch with, and extend an invitation to catch up. You may not have the thrill of waiting for an envelope through your letter box, but you’ll create the same fuzzy feeling—while saving on paper, too. Even just knowing that someone is thinking of you can meet some of your “quality time” needs, which is particularly important if that is your primary love language.
2. Get Nostalgic
Now is a great time to look through old photos and make photo collages/slideshows/video compilations to send to your friends. Make a playlist of your favorite nostalgia-inducing songs for each other. There may be a sadness or grief that comes with knowing that you can’t be together in person, but as anyone who has been in a long-distance relationship knows, a strange solace is to be found in mutual loneliness. Engaging with old memories can help remind you of times when you were able to be physically affectionate and can get you excited about future plans and imagining the adventures you want to experience with your loved ones. Whether it’s toasting marshmallows over a campfire or blasting off to Mars on a time traveling, world-saving escapade, fantasizing and daydreaming are forms of intentional escapism that lift our spirits and encourage a sense of child-like wonder.
3. Join a Club
As a result of collective social distancing, many fitness/wellness classes can now be livestreamed straight to your living room. Signing up to these with friends and tracking your progress alongside each other can be a fun way to punctuate your daily routine. If virtual group movement/mediation is not your thing, plenty of self-guided art challenges floating around Instagram offer a similar sense of community. Not only do these offer creative prompts and (often much-needed) motivation, they have the added feature of dedicated hashtags that enable you to find and interact with other people’s creations (and maybe find like-minded doodlers). Can’t find a club/group you like? Make your own! Schedule a virtual dance party or start a body-positive book club—whatever your heart is hungry for, I guarantee others out there want the same thing.
Besides that, many peer support groups are now available online, too. See whether your local organization is hosting remote sessions. What’s more, as organizations move to online facilitation, many groups that were previously limited to local participants are now open internationally. During this time, don’t be afraid to cast your net a little further afield and take advantage of the supports available.
4. Take Action
Being social means being socially conscious, and that is especially true during times of crisis. Showing solidarity with multiply marginalized folks might mean buying their art, doing their online grocery shop, or donating to their PayPal/GoFundMe directly. A great way to support local independent businesses that have been forced to close their doors is to purchase a gift card for future spending. If you don’t have the disposable income, you can find plenty of other ways to get involved in community organizing: sign a petition, share mutual-aid networks on social media, tell your friends you’re proud of them. Check on your disabled friend, your elderly neighbor, your mentally ill colleague—let them know that their lives matter, that they are loved and needed and wanted. That sense of being a part of something bigger can help ease feelings of separation and solitude, while ensuring that we are taking care of each other in the best ways we can.
Naoise O’Faoláin is a poet, writer, and thinker whose work focuses on trauma, queerness, and social justice. They’re interested in the creativity of survival, the dismantling of hierarchies, and practicing ecological interdependence. Their blog, The Noisy Plant, focuses on the use of ritual, metaphor, and storytelling to explore and reimagine our relationships to gender, sexuality, and mental illness. When they’re not dancing in their underwear or hugging trees (no, seriously), you can find them on Instagram.