How to Be Together When You’re Apart: 7 Ways to Stay Connected in Isolation

Healthy Living

April 2, 2020

People need people. There’s no getting around the fact that as humans, we need each other. Whether it’s with your spouse, your partner, best friend, kids or cousins, relationships keep you healthier, lower your stress and help give you a sense of purpose.

With the world seemingly at a standstill right now, it’s easy to get lost inside yourself. “Social distancing” has become the mantra of the day. But isolating your body doesn’t mean you need to distance yourself emotionally.

In fact, you need to keep those human connections strong. 

Looking for ways to stay connected while you hunker down at home? Here are seven ways to spend that time alone, together.

iStock/Alina Demidenko

#1) Game nights

Board games have made a powerful comeback in the last few years. And there’s no need for that momentum to slow just because you can’t share a living room while you play.

Host a virtual game night with friends via video conferencing — FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger and other apps and services make it easy to connect face-to-face without actually being in each other’s faces.

Not sure which games to play or how to get the party started online? Here are some tips for hosting a virtual game night:

  • Use a web-based game site, like Jackbox or Tabletopia
  • Check to see if your favorite board game has a virtual version (some do)
  • Pick games that don’t require a physical board, such as charades, Pictionary, Yahtzee and Twenty Questions
  • Have one host person (or family) set up a game board and control the pieces while the rest of the players participate online — admittedly a bit clunky, but some games could work well this way

Board games not your thing? Fire up the console and invite your friends to join you in the virtual world of multiplayer gaming. There’s no wrong way to host a game night.


#2) Happy hour

If you’re missing your evening happy hour lately, set up a weekly check-in with your friends over drinks and Skype (or your preferred video platform). Millions of people have had to shift from working out in the world to working from home, with no break between “work” and “home.” Carve out some time to share a virtual drink with the people you miss.

Happy hour doesn’t have to include alcohol, of course, but try to make the time special. That might mean a homemade cocktail, a sugary soda you don’t normally drink or that secret stash of chocolate you hide from the kids. Invite your friends, snuggle up in a place to yourself and unwind at the end of your workday — sweatpants allowed and encouraged.


#3) Old-fashioned pen pals

If you’re close to older relatives who don’t have the option to go virtual (whether by circumstance or choice), consider taking up the art of letter-writing. Not only will writing letters help you stay connected with the people you care about, but writing can also be therapeutic.

Health experts seem to agree that viruses don’t survive on mail long enough to cause a problem, so don’t be afraid to send physical letters to your loved ones.

But if the idea of sending mail still gives you the willies for germ-based or environmental reasons, switch over to weekly phone calls instead. Your relatives will appreciate that you remembered them, especially if they live in nursing homes or communities that are more isolated right now.


#4) Social media groups

If there’s an interest in the world, there’s an online community for it.

From broad categories like “exercise enthusiasts” to really specific niches like “people who only work out in public parks on Thursdays at 9am,” you can find a group to suit all kinds of fancies. Invite your friends to join you in the wonderful world of niche social media groups. This will keep you connected with your current friends and open up a wider world of possible friendships.

Plus, joining groups on social media might help to ease the anxiety that the site as a whole invites. (It makes it a smaller, more personal experience, in other words.)

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iStock/FG Trade

#5) Movie night

With streaming services galore and endless movie options online, there’s no shortage of entertainment available these days. But instead of hunkering down for another solo binge of the latest bizarre docudrama, gather your buds for a virtual movie night.

Pick a movie from a streaming service you all subscribe to, set a time and use a video chat app to connect while you’re watching. You can watch it like you would in a theater — quiet and with your phone in airplane mode — or do it commentator-style, with live critiques of the film. Either way, sharing a movie with friends is always a good choice.


#6) Live learning

It seems a cruel twist of fate that the world is locked inside just as the weather warms up and the sun starts coming out. But alas, that’s where we are now.

You may not be able to spend your weekends at the park, but you don’t have to let something like quarantining keep you from expanding your horizons. Plenty of opportunities exist for sharpening your skills or gaining new ones from the comfort of your home.

Online learning and specialty classes existed long before this global outbreak. But lots of places have jumped aboard the virtual learning train in response to the pandemic, providing deals and discounts on their offerings. Now’s your chance to learn something new.

Invite some friends to sign up with you, whether it’s a one-time watercolor class or a weekly writing course. It’ll help bust your boredom and could inspire a new hobby.


#7) Text, chat & IMs (oh my)

No time or mental energy to coordinate a virtual game night or take a watercolor class with your bestie? No problem. Thanks to a wide variety of social messaging apps — not to mention your phone — you can stay connected with your friends and family via plain old text.

You might already have a group set up for those closest to you, like your best work friends or siblings. Get creative. Make groups for people who share the same quirky sense of humor or set up a meme texting group you can use to exchange memes in a specific genre. Just make sure to label your group texts. Your unbridled thoughts on celebrity crushes might not be the kind of material your parents want to see.

Make the effort

However you choose to do it, make the effort to stay connected while everyone’s staying apart. The “social” part of social distancing doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Perhaps “physical distancing” would be a better phrase. Keeping in touch will help us all weather this unprecedented crisis together. Humans need other humans. Keep your favorite humans close, even if it’s only in spirit at the moment.