2020 will be remembered for #socialdistancing and #selfisolation and the time the world was closed down. Now more than ever friends, families & communities need to be social and stay connected, so here are some virtual ways to do just that.

Video calling apps

Embrace the fact that you can wear your comfiest trousers or joggers (because video calls are usually only ever from the shoulders up!) & continue being social while super comfy. Being under lockdown requires some creative thinking, and if you can't go out on the balcony to chat with neighbours or join in a neighbourhood chorus, you can still create impromptu social moments by simply starting a video call. It's not the same as being there in person, but as anyone who has been in a long-distance relationship can attest to, it's the best substitute.

Here are some virtual ways to stay connected:

  • Zoom
    Used by workers and even teachers now that schools are closed, Zoom offers a free basic personal package that allows you to host up to 100 participants for 40min on a video conference. 
  • Microsoft Teams
    For work, if you use Microsoft 365, Teams is the hub where you can chat, collaborate & video conference
  • Google Duo
    Note: you can only have up to 8 people in on the call. 
  • Houseparty
    The face-to-face social network that turns your screen into a virtual house so you can, you guessed it, have a houseparty.
  • The Stalwarts
    These apps are so common that they don't really need an intro! But it's worth remembering them

Move your social gatherings online

Sorted out your preferred video calling app? Great. Now you can start organising get-togethers & no one can complain the venue is too far or inconvenient! (seriously, it's important to look at the bright side of things at the moment). It may not be the same as in person, but you can organise "drinks", do a book club or even a reunion (provided everyone is techy enough to participate). Stuck for conversation? You can play games online too. 

  • HouseParty has games like Trivia and Pictionary. Pictionary is kid-approved (we should know, we just played it with Alex's kiddies)
  • Words with Friends
  • Facebook Messenger has Words with Friends, Pictionary, Ludo & more 

What else can be taken online? Even if you're not up for having people watch you workout, take part in a live workout! Joe Wicks is live-streaming a workout Mon - Fri at 9am on his YouTube channel & doing shout outs to those watching and working out with him so we all feel connected as we feel the burn.

On Instagram, some children's book authors are doing live story time via Instagram stories so it's your chance, sorry, your kid's chance, to hear the author tell their own tale & hear about the inspiration behind the story & ask questions after. You can leave comments to interact & although it's not the same as a chat, there is something wonderful about reading other people's positive comments (& something more eye-rolling about reading the negative ones).

#stayhomesavelives but don't be isolated. As someone who has used technology to stay in touch across an ocean since 2004, trust me, it's a huge help to see a face while hearing their voice. It's not a "real-life" connection as such, but it is a connection. When my now teenage / adult cousins were kids I would play games with them over Skype to keep in touch (they were kids, have you tried a conversation with kids? Sometimes it's a bit like talking to a top secret agent!).  When needs must use technology for what it's been designed for, a tool to facilitate what you want to happen. 

Some things are better shared

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