How to keep connected with friends and family (and the world) when we can’t be face-to-face.
If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together a brief guide on ways to connect with family and friends while keeping a social distance, from video chat and coordinated movie watching to playing games and book clubs. A little creativity and a lot of internet access will go a long way towards staying connected (and fulfilled) as we navigate these changing times.
First Things First
For many of us, internet chats and video conferencing are uncharted waters. But, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention or, in his case, the parent of “time to give it a try.” Below are five no-cost ways to stay in touch.
1. FaceTime is the obvious choice for Apple users, but when friends and family are a mix of iPhone and Android users, there are some great cross-platform services to connect everyone while keeping an appropriate social distance.
Use Google Hangouts to chat via text, voice, or video. The only requirement is a Gmail account.
Traditionally used for business meetings, Zoom is quickly becoming the go-to for any group video chat. For larger groups, your screen divides into a 3×3 grid of nine windows, making it easy to see everyone at once.
Supports voice and video calls with a four-person maximum but is extremely user friendly. Available on mobile and PC.
Want to host a bigger get-together or a “family reunion?” The ubiquitous Facebook Messenger allows you to have groups up to 50.
Family Game Night (or Day)
From oldies-but-goodies to the new-and-involved, you can play just about any game online nowadays. Here are a few to get you started:
Pick a card, any card game: Rummy 500, Spades, and Crazy 8’s… Host games of up to seven players in some card games. Everyone needs an account to play on your private card table.
To set up a game:
- Log into your account
- Pick your card game
- Choose the green “Global Multiplayer” option
- Click “Host” at the bottom left in the pop-up window
Your card table is now active, and you’re given a Table Number (top left). Guests follow the same steps, but rather than “Host” a game, they input the Table Number and click “Join.” After all have joined, click “Start” to begin play.
You can also play solo games or challenge other players from around the world.
Of course, don’t forget the ONE game everybody knows and loves!
From strategy-based modern games to old school fun (Parcheesi anyone?), Tabletopia boasts over 800 board games. It’s easier to coordinate a game if everyone has an account, but you can also share a link and play with those who don’t.
To start a game:
- Set up an account
- Go to “All Games”
- Choose your game
- Click “Play Online”
- Choose the number of players you’ll host
From there you have the option to invite players with Tabletopia accounts or share a link with guests via email or Facebook. You can even schedule a game for a later time.
Check out their handy Beginner’s Guide for more detailed instructions.
4. Game Pigeon
Feeling nostalgic? Play 8-ball, checkers, anagrams, Dots & Boxes, and more. Currently only available for iOS devices. (Note: there are no game instructions so be prepared to learn how to move the cue stick before playing.)
5. Get Dice-y
Pop the popcorn and settle in with your cozy blanket. You can synchronize movie watching with a group even with appropriate social distance. Engage in chat messaging as you watch. Some applications even support video chat too!
- Netflix Party: Every viewer needs their own Netflix account.
- Scener: Watch shows from multiple streaming services while chatting and watching each other through video.
- twoseven: Video and instant messaging. Currently offering “Special tier to support you all through the Covid-19 pandemic” of $3 per month.
You’ll have to download an extension for each. For detailed step-by-step set-ups, check out this blog.
Movies with Meaning
Make movie-watching time more than watching. Make it an event.
Watch Academy Award-winners from past decades versus a 2018 or 2019 winner. Then share critiques of each. (Tip: this is a great way to get the grandkids to enjoy some of the classics.)
Are books really always better? Give everyone a reason to read with the end game of watching the movie to compare. Some ideas:
- Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
- Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
- Jaws by Peter Benchley
- Forrest Gump by Winston Groom
- The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Thrive Through Themes
Give your crew something to look forward to every week (and a project to keep them busy) by creating weekly themed chats. Here’s what we mean:
Learn a Language
Have everyone pick a language and learn a handful of words over the week. When you get together, take turns saying your words while everyone else tries to guess what language you’re speaking.
Have Time, Will Travel
Don’t let coronavirus ground your travel intentions. Create themes around travel.
- “If I could go anywhere, I’d go to _____ right now.” Why?
- “My favorite all-time vacation was _____.”
- Have everyone research a country or city they don’t know much about and share their Top 10 factoids about the place.
Dust off that old Trivial Pursuit card box and fire away. Or, coordinate online trivia challenges to maintain social distance.
You know what to do.
Name That Tune
Music soothes the soul. Whether it’s singing acapella or with accompaniment, you can really get creative here. Choose five or ten favorite songs and take turns singing a few bars from the chorus (or the bridge). To break through the yells and screams, the first person to text the right answer wins.
Host an online jam session with other musician friends and family or plan a sing-along as a grandkid strums the guitar, toots a flute, or … plays the drums(??).
The best thing: no one gets docked for singing off-key.
Virtually Anything Goes
Get creative and go virtual with the things you do already.
Start a virtual book club with neighbors or your old book club members.
Here are some fabulous ways to get free downloads.
Across the globe, folks aren’t letting COVID-19 close their calendar on socializing. Conversations are just as good on video chats as they are in person. Of course, hosting a virtual happy hour is not out of the question either. We’ve heard it called “Social-Distini” Time!
Plan a craft together that can be accomplished with things already on hand or have everyone order supplies online. Do the craft together. Better yet, have a hobby? Teach the grandkids (or neighborhood) to knit, crochet, or cross-stitch (you know it’s made a comeback, right?).