Three Ways to Socialize While Socially Isolated

Schedule a co-working session online.

I’ve been doing daily sessions with friends and my Patreon supporters, where I set up a Zoom video call. People log in at the appointed time, and the size varies, but is usually around a half dozen or so. They don’t need to have a webcam or even a microphone, since there’s a chat window. They do need a decent (as opposed to weak or unreliable) Internet connection.

Our format is pretty simple. We take the first 5–10 minutes to say what we’re working on and what we’d like to get accomplished, along with any other important news. Then everyone mutes, I set a thirty minute timer, and we work. Sometimes people get interrupted by children with homework or housemates with a question. That’s okay. Since people are muted, that’s generally not too distracting.

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At the end of the first sprint, we check in and go around to say how everyone is doing. Then we repeat this two more times. This gets us through somewhere between an hour and forty-five minutes to two hours, depending on how long we converse. If people need to communicate something, they use the chat window, which I tend to monitor. It may be good to appoint someone the facilitator, though that’s additional work for someone; perhaps rotate the responsibility.

I was leading a fairly solitary work existence long before the pandemic, so I started these sessions and have done them in a much more sporadic way. Nowadays I have a schedule for them, which I post a week ahead of time, and I do them every day, either in the morning or the afternoon.

Game together. Roll20 allows you to play an RPG with your friends and has pre-created material for a variety of game systems, including D&D5E and Call of Cthulhu. It’s a fun system, and while it’s not as good, in my opinion, as sitting together at the table, you do get the bulk of the gaming experience. Roll20 also has a system where you can find plenty of pick-up games if you can’t find enough interested friends.

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If you don’t want to commit that far, check out Twitch, whose content includes a ton of game campaigns, each with a chat room where you can talk with other viewers and the participants about what’s going on in the game. I’ve been playing in a campaign of Esper Genesis, a space opera version of D&D, for over a year now, and the bimonthly sessions are a highlight of my month.

And certainly there are plenty of games that don’t consume hours at a time. The solitary walker can go forth to catch Pokemon, but exchange gifts and battle with their friends. Games like Words with Friends allow for interaction and something to talk about when texting back and forth.

Explore your phone. Okay, younger readers are laughing at me, but for my Boomers, if you’ve got a smart phone, check out some of the things you can do, like sending someone a video clip of yourself doing something or amending your selfie with some special effects.

Text pictures of the amusing moments of your day or a video of your cat being stupid to someone who’ll appreciate it. Scroll back, find someone you haven’t talked to in a while, and text them a hello. Reach out.

If you’re fulfilling this itch with social media, I will warn you to be mindful of basic privacy. Don’t post a picture of that package that happens to disclose your friend’s address or something that reveals secrets of your home security system. Personally, I do not post pictures of my godkids or other young relatives. Among other reasons, it’s an invasion of their privacy that they may not appreciate when they’re older. Would you post whatever image you’re thinking about on a telephone pole? If not, reconsider using it on social media.

One thing that’s growing out of all this is more and more exploration of how to use virtual reality and the Internet to get together. I’ve heard so far of people doing virtual dance parties, concerts, readings, seders, and more. What have you been doing to socialize?

World Fantasy and Nebula-nominated speculative fiction writer/editor. I read and write a lot.

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