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Socializing in an era of distance: 4 ways to enjoy time with friends amid a pandemic

Steven Josephson is the magazines and arts and entertainment editor at the Summit Daily News.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archive

Unlike a lot of folks, my social life hasn’t changed a whole lot during the pandemic. I’m fairly introverted to begin with, plus I’m married, have a toddler at home, have a job that requires me to work late nights, and a lot of my good friends live more than three hours away from me. Even with all that, I’ve had plenty of times when I’ve felt like the ongoing pandemic is cutting down on my social life, and it can be rough.

So, with COVID-19 cases spiking in the area, the cold weather making outdoor gathering more difficult and the looming hope of maintaining a good ski season, what can we do to keep social while we play our part in limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus?

I’ve got four suggestions:

Make a phone call

Sometime in late April, I was feeling depressed. We were in the thick of stay-at-home orders, and I was not only feeling some cabin fever, but I was also heartily sick of my social media feeds. Amid all of that, someone put out the excellent suggestion (on one of my social media feeds, funnily enough) to actually use your phone to make a call and talk with a friend.

So, I called my best friend. He answered, and we talked for over two hours. It was honestly one of the most refreshing phone calls I’ve ever had, and it boosted my mood for the whole week afterward. Since then, I’ve made a few other calls to talk with friends and family over the phone, and I’d definitely recommend it.

Use the Postal Service

One other old-school communication device that is always worth a try is letter writing. Everyone enjoys getting mail, and sending letters is still cheaper than buying stuff on Amazon.

Write a letter to a friend, or better yet, write a letter and include an exquisite corpse drawing for Halloween. Just fold a paper in four parts horizontally, draw a head on the second part so that the neck just barely crosses into the third part and then fold the first part to cover over the head. The next person draws the arms and torso without looking at the head, and then either sends it to a third person or back to you to add the legs and feet to complete your exquisite corpse. (See what I mean here.)

If you’re short on people to write letters to, it might be worth joining PostCrossing.com, which connects people around the globe by encouraging them to send postcards to one another. It’s free, and postcards are cheaper to send than standard letters.

Attend a virtual get-together

I started college in the early, halcyon days of YouTube, and one of my more nostalgic memories during those days was spending weekends sharing videos with friends.

Upload speeds being what they were, most videos at the time were under five minutes, and you’d never just watch one, because invariably after watching the first video someone would say, “That was great! It reminds me of this other video that we have to watch now.” This ceremony would then repeat for the next several hours as we all took turns sharing our favorite recent find.

I bring this bit of notalgia up to suggest a modern innovation: Use Zoom to watch random, short videos with your friends and recapture the feel of the magic of mid-2000s entertainment. Other, more modern, forms of this could be creating a shared playlist on Spotify, joining in on a virtual escape room or attending a streamed concert or movie screening at the same time.

Reach out to someone you haven’t heard from in a while

One thing I’ve really enjoyed doing this pandemic is reaching out to people who I haven’t seen or heard from for a long time. They’ll pop into my brain, and I’ll send them a message to let them know I was thinking of them and hope they are doing well.

I’ve heard back from a lot of people who I haven’t seen or properly talked with in years, and it’s been nice just to touch base and find out what they’re up to. Frankly, it’s nice to know we can still keep in touch even after all these years, and I’ve enjoyed hearing about what’s been going on with them since we last parted.

Six early YouTube classics
  • Strong Bad Email #58 – Dragon: Ask any millennial about Trogdor, and you may see their eyes gloss over with nostalgic delight for a minute.
  • Grape lady falls!: There are several classic examples of unfortunate newscasts gaining viral popularity on YouTube, but this is one of the foremost among them.
  • Ask a Ninja: I’m pretty sure the ask a ninja guy did his shtick before you could even subscribe to channels on YouTube, but I never missed a video for years.
  • The End of the World: If you could make odd flash animations on the internet, you were capable of going viral in the mid-2000s (language warning on this one).
  • Will it Blend?:  I’m not sure how many blenders Blendtec sold eviscerating random objects in their products. It was always a great watch, though.
  • The Ultimate Showdown: Random songs were almost as popular as random flash animations on early YouTube, combining the two was inevitable and frequent.

Steven Josephson is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News.


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