In case you hadn’t heard, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and billions of people worldwide are stuck in their homes in order to comply with social distancing recommendations and quarantine orders. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, professionals have made a sudden shift to working from home. Working with others in person is now happening less frequently than ever, and technology is evolving to meet our needs as we adapt to this new normal.
It’s no surprise that people are experiencing loneliness from social distancing. A significant percentage of the population has access to technology that helps fill the void for practical tasks like work and life issues, in addition to social and recreational needs. There are plenty of different platforms and activities to try beyond FaceTime and Zoom video calls. After all, people need people, even as we switch to interaction via a virtual format.
Here are ways to connect with your friends, family and co-workers virtually, even if you can’t share office space for the foreseeable future:
One of the many great things about video games is the ability to connect and interact with people all over the world. JackBox Party Packs are interactive games that can be played with friends online and allow you to interact, joke and socialize. JackBox games can be paired with video chat platforms that allow for screen share and chatting to give the game a little more of an in-person feel. If you miss your game nights, check out JackBox here and on Steam.
Groups of Interest
Many young professionals have their niche groups that they nerd out with about things they enjoy, but the pandemic has left a lot of conventions and conferences cancelled for the time being. There are a lot of different platforms you can use to discover and stay connected to those niche groups. Here are a few free options to explore:
Twitch.tv: If you’re anything like me, you like playing video games and you like talking about the latest games with those that share the same sentiment. Twitch is a great place to watch people play the games you think you might be interested in. It’s also a perfect way to connect with people all over the world who like the same things as you, and not just video games. Even if you aren’t a gamer, Twitch goes beyond video games and includes artistic channels, cooking channels, and even channels dedicated to animals and wildlife.
Reddit: Reddit has what seems like unlimited topics for discussion called Subreddits. Subreddits are where people connect and talk about topics that interest them. They are an ideal place to find like-minded people who share your interests and connect in a more traditional forum setting.
Discord: Discord has so many capabilities and can be used in a lot of different ways. Personally, I use it to share my screen when I am playing computer games with my friends, but I also utilize it to simply talk to people without having to hold a phone to my head. It’s similar to Zoom with its ability for video and audio chat, but the channel features give it a more organized feel. You can have an unlimited amount of people in Discord and a variety of channels to keep your conversations organized. Want a place to just share photos? Create a channel. How about a place to watch movies with your friends? Create a video channel and share your screen. Discord is a practical alternative to Zoom.
Netflix Party is a new way to watch Netflix with your friends and family online together while still remaining in your own space. It synchronizes video playback and adds a group chat feature to your favorite Netflix shows while you watch with your family and friends. The only downfall to Netflix Party is that it is only accessible on desktops and laptops using Chrome. You can get this extension for your Chrome browser here.
Social connections are vital for your mental health, and even as a self-proclaimed introvert, I utilize these technologies on a regular basis to stay and feel connected. Seeking out that interaction may be more valuable now than ever as it takes conscious effort, but it can have an important impact on mental well-being. Connection can also help us manage anxiety, stay aware of others and remember our shared humanity.
These are just a handful of examples of how technology is stepping in to help connect people during a global pandemic. If you know of others we should check out, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us a link to connect, and we might see you soon!