How to stay connected online while social distancing

This is a transcript of a video I posted on my YouTube channel about how to stay connected online while social distancing. It has been slightly edited for improved readability.

In this season of COVID-19, having access to social media can be both a blessing and a curse. But there are other, potentially healthier, ways to stay connected to the people you love during this time. So, let’s look at some examples.

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Hi, I’m Brisbane Life Coach Leslie V.…and it looks like I’m not going anywhere else any time soon, which is mostly fine but, of course, it also has its drawbacks. I am a citizen of three countries [picture]. I’ve been an international traveler pretty much since birth, and I’ve worked, lived and studied all over the world. So, my family/social circle is very global. 

staying connected online video screenshot
Video screenshot showing
US, Peruvian and Australian flags.

My parents live in the US, in Pennsylvania, and if something were to happen to them because of this COVID-19 thing, I would not be able to hop on a plane and go over there. That’s a little nerve-wracking. And there are millions, probably billions of people in the world who are in a similar situation, being physically cut-off from important people in their lives. So, the only option we are left with is to maintain social connections in non-physical ways.

One obvious method of staying connected online while social distancing is through social media. People are spending a lot more time on Facebook, Instagram, Tik tok and all the rest of it. And when you do that you can get these little snippets of some of the things that are going on in people’s lives but it’s important to recognise that the potential pitfalls of spending too much time on social media can increase exponentially during this period. Generally speaking, people are a lot more vulnerable or on edge, plagued with uncertainty. And if you maintain a habit of mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed and taking in bytes of information on a superficial level, you may actually be sabotaging yourself by creating an illusion of connection–one that will have you feeling more lonely and more disconnected in the medium to long term. That is why it is especially important now to be mindful and intentional with your use of internet communication technology for social connection and to avoid letting social media distract you from what is really important in your life right now. So here are five examples of ways to use technology to connect that don’t involve the distraction and time-wastage of scrolling through a newsfeed:

  1. Netflix Party

[3:05] The first example of a method to stay connected online while social distancing is one I mentioned briefly in my previous video about coping with ‘quarantine’. And that is having a Netflix Party. Netflix Party is a Google Chrome extension that you can download which will allow you and your friends to sync up and watch videos together and exchange commentary on-screen. It only works on chrome and only desktop browsers, so that is a slight limitation. But if that’s how you roll anyway, then no problem. There are other apps and extensions that do similar things but this one has really exploded in popularity recently and it’s probably the most straightforward option and the one that is the least…invasive to your computer system or your network.

2. Shared Google Doc

[03:49] Another way to connect with friends online more intentionally while social distancing is through a shared Google doc. You can use a shared doc for millions of different things. You can compile a list of films for your Netflix parties, links to recipes you want to recommend to each other and so on. Now, you may be thinking “yeah, but I can use Facebook or Pinterest or this that and the other to do the same thing” Yeah, you can, but a benefit of just keeping a single Google doc for this is that you can format it however you like and people can contribute to it whether or not they use a bunch of other apps. And the idea here is to avoid the potential distractions that opening up Facebook or Pintrest might cause when the aim is to communicate with your important people with intention and focus. 

3. Event planning

[04:50] Another great way to stay connected online while social distancing is by planning an event together…a physically proximal one… for some ‘to-be-determined’ date after this period of physical/social distancing. This would also be a great use for a shared Google doc. When I say planning, I’m talking details : Where will it be held? What food will be served? What’s the most amazing recipe you can come up with for a signature cocktail? Create a full guest list. Put someone in charge of creating a full playlist on Spotify. If you’re one of the many people who has re-ignited a love of crafting, make some decorations. One major benefit of doing something like this is that it will hold you in a forward-thinking mindset, not dwelling on the darker things that are happening now but looking forward to the future with excitement. 

Reconnecting physically after restrictions are lifted may not happen overnight. It will likely be a gradual process. But maintaining healthy social connections now will make that transition back to a more public life a lot easier to navigate. 

4. Themed Zoom Calls

[06:07] The next connection activity on my list is hosting themed Zoom calls. Zoom doesn’t have to be used only for business or educational purposes. Have a dress-up party, or a singing competition, or a dance-off. The possibilities are endless. One thing that I love about using Zoom now is that it makes it really easy to record your discussions and keep them as documentation for this very weird time we’re going through right now. I mean, think about it. Imagine if you could go back in time to, I don’t know,  World War 1 and access the kinds of person-to-person communications that our ancestors might have been having during that time. I personally would love to know more about what my slave ancestors in the southern US might have chatted casually about while all of that horrific stuff was happening in the 17 and 18 hundreds. Not just the things that made it into the history books (or likely didn’t make it into the history books) but little mundane observations or the things that lit them up in the darkness of the time. Of course, with Zoom, Skype or any of those platforms, there are privacy and security concerns to take into consideration, but next time you’re having a group chat on Zoom and recording it, remember that you’re also creating a first-person account of a very significant period in history. 

5. Virtual exercise sessions

[07:53] And finally, another method to stay connected online while social distancing that has become a lot more popular lately is virtual exercise sessions. If you’ve got a bit of space, half-decent lighting and something you can prop your phone or computer up on, you’ve got yourself a virtual fitness studio. And it’s a great way to stay motivated to work out so that you don’t come out of this isolation period having become a couch potato. You can host a guided workout session, give each other feedback and share training tips, or you can even set it up open gym style–doing your individual workouts and checking in with each other periodically to keep each other accountable. 

I’m sure there are thousands of ways to connect with intention using the internet, but I’m stopping at five for now. So, I want to know from YOU how you’ve been connecting with your loved ones during COVID-19 season. Have you tried anything on my list? Do you want to try one of these things? And what do you have to add? Leave me a comment below and if this video brought any light into your day, leave me a big thumbs up and don’t forget to subscribe to my channel to make it easier for more people to find my videos. In fact, it’s a good idea to share this video with people you want to stay connected with so they can be part of the discussion as well!

If you want to talk with me in more detail about getting to the other side of this pandemic feeling revitalized, go to my website, and book a free online Life Coaching consultation with me. This is what I love to do. This is my full-time gig. Now is an ideal time to check in with me and see if we’re a good match for working together.

Alright. Have an amazing week and I will see you in the next video. 

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