S chools and businesses across the country are closed. People are working and learning from home. The phrases “self-quarantine” and “social distance” are all across social media. After the novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) last week and restaurants and bars closed their doors, self-quarantine became the norm across the U.S. Staying at home and away from gatherings with friends might not be so hard yet, but as the days pass, keeping your distance is going to feel pretty lonely.
Thankfully, we live in a world with plenty of technology, and though normally it’s healthy to cut down on screen time, our screens are what are keeping us connected right now. There are plenty of creative ways to still connect with the community that makes you feel safe without getting too close to them physically. They don’t all involve staring at your screen all day, every day; in fact, some of them are pretty active! The list below might even give you some ideas for ways to stay entertained that you and your friends never even thought of when you could hang out IRL. Learn new things, make new goals, and encourage each other to do something you haven’t. This is a scary time, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a moment that is void of the people you love, things that interest you, and general happiness.
Check out the list below for ways you can still remain plugged in to your community without having to be with them.
Send your friends check-in messages
This one doesn’t take much time. Just keep up a text chain with your friends that allows you to check-in with them and see how they are doing every day. With the constant barrage of news updates and uncertainty, chances are you and your friends are going to have some anxiety-ridden days. When you’re having a good day, your friends might be feeling low. This is why sending a simple “How are you doing” text can go a long way for a friend who might really need to talk.
Have dinner parties or happy hour over video chat
There are many good platforms for digital hangouts. Google Hangouts, Zoom, and FaceTime are all apps that you can use to have large group chats or gatherings with your friends. You can do a happy hour with wine (or non-alcoholic drinks) where you just chat with your friends and talk about your weeks. You can make a rule where no one talks about coronavirus for the duration of the chat. If you were supposed to go on a beach or tropical trip with your friends that is now canceled, make it a swimsuit happy hour and mix up some tropical drinks. That seems silly, but we all need to inject a little silliness into our lives right now.
Start a book club
You might already be in a book club with friends, but most likely, it’s fallen off. This is a great chance to start your group reading up again. You can pick a theme, such as books written by queer writers, fantasy books, or historical fiction. Everyone in the group can pick a book they want to read; you can take turns choosing. Then, you can turn your digital chat-happy hour into a book club meeting! Everyone can snack on cheese and crackers in their own homes.
Play online games
If you want to interact with your friends but you don’t want to keep up the group chat nonstop, there’s always the option to play online games. Scrabble GO, Words with Friends, and Word Crossing are all options that can work your brain and create a little fun competition among your friend group.
Virtual disco parties
If you miss going out dancing on the weekends to shake off your work or study stress, there’s still a way to do that. Create your own virtual dance party, or attend one that someone else is throwing. For example,The Politician’s Ben Platt and his friends threw a virtual dance party last Tuesday called “QuaranTunes.” The party was also a fundraiser for the Food Bank for New York City, which means you can dance and help vulnerable communities. Look out for similar virtual events being hosted by DJs or other nightlife spaces in your community.
Start a cooking club
This is as easy as starting a book club. Your friends can all challenge each other to make a recipe. Maybe one friend assigns the rest to make one recipe and everyone tries it on the same night. Or one friend can cook the recipe for the rest and drop it off outside each of your doors. This is a way to stay connected and nourish the people you love with good food.
Entertain your friends with your talents
If you have a fun artistic skill that you like to share, now is a great time to use it! If you can play an instrument or have a killer voice, have your friends request songs they want covered. Or if your artistic skills are more visual, draw sketches or paint something on request. This is also a great way to raise money for an organization or make some cash via Venmo or PayPal if you’re out of work right now.
Curate playlists for your friends
This is a sweet, personal gift to give someone. Make Spotify playlists for your friends that represent their personalities or feature artists they love. This is a good way to let them know you’re thinking of them during such a stressful time.
Netflix watch parties
Netflix has created a way to have movie nights with friends—without having to be with your friends. The Google Chrome Netflix Party extension has been around for years, but now’s the time to make use of it.
Send gifts from a local business
Now, more than ever, we need to be supporting local businesses that have had to close their doors because of the virus. Many of these places are still doing shipments and delivery, though. Order something for your friends from their favorite restaurant or send them a book you think they’ll like from a local bookstore. This way, they’ll get a yummy meal or an activity.