Can’t Go Out and Party?
12 Ways to Create a Virtual Social Life that May Be Just as Good as Your Old One
In 2020, Americans and much of the rest of the world experienced a phenomenal change in their social habits. Suddenly, they were forced to stay home from any business considered “non-essential.” Overnight, restaurants were ordered to serve only take-out dishes and bars were closed. Large event venues were likewise shuttered.
For some people who had limited social habits, these changes were no big deal. For others, they constituted massive shifts in the way they operated. The friends they saw every weekend or every night were suddenly out of reach. The lifeblood of their friendships—their conversations, their fun and their moment-to-moment shared experiences vanished in a flash. At this writing, we are still in the thick of these changes.
People all over the world are having to work out ways to maintain healthy habits. For some other people, however, healthy habits are more than just a good idea; these people are in recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol. Maintaining their equilibrium and finding ways to actually enjoy this temporary life as a shut-in is an essential part of managing to stay sober during this time.
So what can you do? In recovery or not, how can you maintain the feeling of connectedness that we, as humans, treasure so much? With a little work, you can use today’s unique communication channels to create a parallel universe of social experience. With a little creativity, it might be able to provide just as much satisfaction as your IRL (in real life) experiences of the recent past.
Here’s some ideas for you.
- Do you have a smartphone or tablet? Make videos. But don’t make them doom and gloom. You can make them funny or profound. You can sing, dance or do yoga. Share them by email or post to social media. Your positive or cheerful messages will not only cheer you up, they will cheer up anyone who sees them.
- Are you an artist? Or have you ever been an artist? If ever there was a time to pull your art skills out of storage (if that’s where they are), it’s now. If you don’t have supplies, you can order them online. Pens, colored pencils, markers, notebooks, watercolors don’t have to be expensive. You can make art you enjoy, any way you enjoy it. There’s no rules. Need inspiration? The collections of many famous museums are available online. Like MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
- Have you always wanted to learn a language? Many online educational services are offering special prices to generate more business during this slow period. Check out different language lessons in your desired language. Fast Company offers a list of six ways to learn a language for free on their website. Look for online videos in your preferred language to get experience listening to the language. You may also be able to find groups online where you can join meetings or team up with individuals to get experience conversing in that language.
- Discover the many different methods of distance learning. There are schools offering discounts and free online courses. Harvard University, for example, calls their online classes Open Learning Courses. The University of California Berkeley calls them BerkeleyX. Berkeley offers writing and marketing courses and lessons in bitcoin. Harvard offers algebra, Greek history, computer science, literature and much more.
- Share! Share! Share! When you make art, take a photo of it and email it to those you care about. Post it to social media. Let other people know what you're creating and encourage them to create, too. When you gain new language skills, shoot a short video and share that.
- Now discover virtual travel! Many of the world’s most fascinating locations offer virtual travel experiences. Take a virtual tour of the Great Wall of China. View the Sistine Chapel without the crowds or expense. Journey through the Louvre Museum. The website for CNN features 50 virtual travel experiences available to you.
- Again, share your experiences! Who do you normally hang out with? Invite them to engage in similar activities to the ones you’re interested in and then do a video call with one or more of them to compare notes afterwards. Post your experiences on social media and tag your friends. Challenge them to join in or learn more than you and see who wins.
- Love playing games? Parade Magazine compiled a list of 22 games you can play with your friends using online services. Do you have cousins or other family members you’re not getting to see? Classmates you miss seeing every day? Hook up with them through these games.
- Were you a big fan of Pokemon Go? The authors of this game have adjusted it so it can still be played in these unusual circumstances. Check it out.
- Are you a musician? There are plenty of ways you and your bandmates or friends who would like to be bandmates can collaborate during this time. Reverb compiled a list of 11 of these collaboration tools. Keep making music!
- Has it been a while since you've talked to family or old friends? Renew the conversation via phone, email, chat. Compare notes on how you are staying productive. Update each other on your children, travels, interests, even the old tried-and-true topic, the weather! If you share interests, keep the communication alive by sharing your progress on your games, learning, artistic, fitness or musical projects.
- Are you in recovery from addiction? Or do you have a special health concern? Don’t forget to stay in touch with groups that have helped you maintain your equilibrium. So many churches, educational organizations and support groups have established virtual meetings to help their members. If your usual group hasn’t taken this step, look for another group with a similar role that has.
It may seem like a lot of work to establish these new channels of experience and communication but look at it this way. In the future, you’ll not only have your usual, face-to-face communication experiences back, you’ll have had the chance to learn dozens, maybe hundreds of new methods of communication and sharing experiences.