Life During Virustime: Tools for Socializing at a Distance

Since we’re all alone together now, I wanted to share some resources1 I’m looking at for socializing remotely and staying sane.

I won’t focus on working remotely, since a lot of other articles already do that quite well, and ensuring we can keep working seems to be a default concern. We tend to be a little less intentional about our social and mental well being, and just hope it works by magic—that’s the concern I want to address.

Hanging Out With Friends

Instead of going to bars with friends or hanging out together and watching a movie, we’re going to need to socialize remotely. Messaging people on Facebook, WhatsApp, or iMessage is already a default many of us practice, but many of these apps also offer voice and video calling. Setting up a call helps us focus on being with our friends (virtually) and not just asynchronously replying to messages sent hours earlier.

Those things help us with 1:1 interactions (which are great!) but we can still keep the parties going, too. Our hangouts don’t have to shrink, and they don’t have to stop involving alcohol, movies, and games just because we’re not gathering for them, either. Here are some tools I’ve found to help:

Activities To Do

Right now it might seem like your social calendar is decidedly empty. The vacation you were planning next month is canceled, the concert next weekend is totally canceled, and all other events are pending. Sitting inside and reading a book or watching Netflix can help, but what do you do once you’ve finished The Power Broker and binged the entire run of Friends?

Great news; we don’t have to go out to go out! There are a ton of events that are being moved online instead of fully canceled; from nightclub DJ sets to the Met Opera, you can stream them from the comfort of your own home. A lot of these are entirely free or donation-supported too, so if you’ve never gotten into musical theater because it seems too expensive to be worth it or you don’t live in a city that gets a lot of shows, now you can try it out without the cost and effort!

And if you’re running out of things to read or watch? Your local libraries might be shut down, but many of them offer extensive catalogs of online materials (and not just books—movies and music and tons of other things too).

There’s so many things online it’d be hard for me to exhaustively list them, but here’s some I find cool:2

Finding Communities

If you feel alone right now, you’re not alone. A ton of people are searching for things to do and like-minded people to hang out with; you don’t need in person events to find new friends. There are ways to find people to socialize with.

Self-Care and Maintaining Sanity

The internet is great but it also kinda sucks. I’m a fan of spending time playing games and chatting with friends, but the large-scale social “discourse” that winds up happening on Twitter or the endless black holes of Reddit can often just be exhausting.

Taking breaks is important and can help, of course—it appears to be OK to go for a walk outside so long as we’re avoiding touching surfaces and direct contact with other people. So really, do that!

But there are also some technology tools I like for making things better:3

And remember, you are not alone. If you’re completely overwhelmed and just need to talk to someone but don’t know where to turn, the Crisis Text Line has you covered. Also my DMs are open, feel free to hit me up.

Charities and Service

Last but definitely not least, when things get this bad, I usually want to know what I can do to help. Right now the traditional volunteering avenues—that is to say, in-person ones—are a bit contrary to social distancing.

However, there are still tons of places you can give your money and time to, if you’re able. In addition to people fighting the virus itself, the impacts on people without health insurance and people whose work is threatened by this like those in the service industry, events industry, gig workers, and artists are pretty massive. Anything you can do will help. This disease will take all of us working against it. My personal picks are:

If you have any suggestions to add to this article, please let me know! Unlike my usual stance on updating articles, I intend to keep this one alive and add resources as they’re recommended to me (or remove any that turn out to have problems).4

  1. I don’t use all of these, but the ones I don’t come recommended by people I trust. Some of these cost money or have non-free options. I’m not affiliated with any of these products and services, and I don’t make any money from this post. ↩︎

  2. This list is weighted towards New York things, because I live here. But it’s all streaming, so you don’t have to live here! ↩︎

  3. I’m linking to Chrome extensions, but basically all of these have equivalents in Firefox and other browsers that support extensions. ↩︎

  4. The revision history is visible on GitHub for anyone who is curious about it, and I’ll add notes if I change things. You can contact me easiest via Twitter ↩︎