Images

Staying Connected through Distance

Staying Connected through Distance

By Sydney

The best laid plans…

Emma was so excited to start the new year. She was especially excited for spring. The snow was gone, the sky was blue and everything was fresh and full of promises. She had so many good things going for her that she felt invincible. Nothing could stop her from meeting with her new friend, Sarah, for coffee. Nothing could prevent her from interviewing for her dream job. Her schedule for the next week was packed, and she was incredibly excited about it. However, the one thing she didn’t plan for was the validity of all the Coronavirus rumors. She didn’t expect a global pandemic to empty her planner, but it most certainly did.  

Everything changed…

Suddenly, Emma was left feeling isolated and worried. She never got to go in for the interview because she had to stay home. She never got to spend time with that friend because all the coffee shops closed. Her grades slipped because she didn’t understand the lessons she was being taught virtually, and she was too embarrassed to ask for help. She tried to maintain hope because she knew this wouldn’t last forever, but it was hard. Six months passed, and everyone else was going back to life like nothing happened, but since her brother has always battled severe asthma, she is still stuck in March – completely alone, helpless, and abandoned.

A spark of hope…

Not long after all of this, she gets a call. She hasn’t talked to anyone except her family in so long. It’s her new friend who I mentioned earlier, Sarah. Sarah wants to meet for coffee and catch up, since their previous date got cancelled. Emma has to explain that due to her brother’s severe underlying health condition, she is still under strict quarantine. It’s not her fault, or even her brother’s fault, but it’s the way things are – unfortunately. 

“That’s no big deal! We don’t have to meet in person, all we need is a cup of homemade coffee, a computer, and time to spare!” says Sarah, and in fifteen minutes she is having that coffee date over ZOOM. In just a few minutes, she has new hope. She feels reconnected to the world. It’s not the same as meeting in person, but it’s so much better than not talking at all! She gets that face-to-face interaction without the fear of getting infected. Even though she may need to stay in quarantine for much longer, she can still spend time with her friends. She isn’t forgotten, and she definitely isn’t alone.

COVID can’t take everything…

While the characters in my story are fictional, many of us have experienced some element of this story in our own lives. In March, the Coronavirus stole much of our control and peace of mind. It demanded our attention and took many things that it didn’t have a right to take – such as our time, our plans, our jobs and in some cases the lives of the people we love. Most importantly, it challenged our courage. COVID-19 struck fear into the hearts of many, and demolished the joy of people who deserved much better.  

Life doesn’t have to stay this way!

With the power of technology, we can be a friend like Sarah! We can keep our own friends connected now and during any future quarantines. We have been given the tools needed to take back some of what the Coronavirus stole! That virus is sure it has the upper hand in this scenario, but we can invalidate the power it thinks it has over us and be victorious once again. With simple acts like inviting someone to a game of Online Pictionary or making a quick phone call, we have a multitude of ways to make a difference in peoples’ lives.

God knew what he was doing when he allowed the virus to become as big as it is, he has a plan with all of this and we can be part of it. He works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). This is an opportunity to intentionally bring light and joy into peoples’ lives. So, without further adieu, let’s dive into some of these options! This list also works for any friend experiencing a long term illness, or any long-distance friendship/relationship. We can stay connected!

Group Chats and Group Calls

There are several platforms that provide a place for you and your friends to have group text conversations and group video calls. From open group video calls on HouseParty, to exclusive chats on Google Hangouts, there are numerous ways to connect

HousePartyThis app allows you to video chat with friends in rooms that (Unless locked) are open to any of your friends who want to join you. Up to 8 people can join your conversation. They have even added a feature where you can link Fortnite to your room and houseparty together while you play. 

Google Hangouts – This app links to your Email and allows you to have group chats with up to 150 people. My friends and I use this VERY often since it’s extremely user friendly. Chats and calls are limited to only people you invite to join. Hangouts was recently updated so that all calls go through Google Meets which allows 10 people when calling with Gmail or Google Workspace Basics.

Facebook Rooms – Facebook recently updated Messenger adding the new feature called Rooms. This allows you to create video calls with up to 50 people for an unlimited amount of time. We used this to communicate with our family on Thanksgiving and it worked beautifully. It’s easy to set up too, you simply invite the Facebook friends you want to chat with to join the room and go from there!

Watch Party, GroupWatch, and Teleparty

Before COVID, my best friend and I loved having movie nights together. There is almost nothing better than having your bff over so you can cry together over some ridiculously dramatic Rom-Com or sing along to your favorite musical — which for us at the time was The Greatest Showman, however now it would have to be Hamilton. Thanks to the addition of Watch Party, GroupWatch, and Teleparty on some of the most popular streaming services we haven’t had to stop! We can still watch all our favorite movies together from the safety of our home.

Watch Party – With Watch Party you can watch any movie featured on Prime video (You can tell that a movie fits this criteria if you can hit “Watch Now” without having to watch ads or purchase a subscription to something like HBO or Starz) with up to 100 friends. To create, simply find a movie, hit the “Watch Party” button, enter your name, then copy and share the link with your friends or family. 

GroupWatch – When starting a movie on Disney+ you can invite up to 6 people to join you with this feature. Simply select the “GroupWatch” button and share your link!

TelepartyThis is an extension you can download on your computer to create streaming parties with Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and HBO. Simply start a movie with your desired streaming service, then hit the extension to make it a party. You can now share your link with up to 50 people.

Skribbl: Online Pictionary

Pictionary is a classic. Artistic talent (or lack thereof) helps really make this game interesting. I believe the funniest part is revealing what exactly your friend was trying to draw! It really brings to light how we all see things differently. Skribbl.io is a website that provides free online pictionary. It’s super easy to set up, and even easier to enjoy. Simply go to the website, enter your name and customize your avatar, hit the “Create Private Room” button and invite up to 12 people to join you! You can customize details such as how many rounds you’d like to play per game and how long you want to give the person drawing.

Buzzfeed Quiz Party: Group Personality Quizzes

A personal hobby of my best friend and I is taking Buzz feed quizzes to find out what kind of bread we would be or what year we might meet our soulmates. A feature buzzfeed added recently that has made this a million times better is Buzzfeed Quiz Party. The Buzzfeed Quiz Party feature allows us to take quizzes together and compare results instantaneously. The host creates the party and invites the participants to join. Once the party is started, the host can pick which quizzes the party takes then results are revealed at the end of each quiz!

Scavenger Hunt

When I was much younger, my friends and I always loved a good scavenger hunt. We felt like explorers following clues to find the objects someone had hidden around the back yard. Even though we can’t meet in person now, we can still do just this. Simply share a list of objects with your friends (for example: A cool leaf, something red, something that reminds you of a fond memory, something you think another person in your group would like etc.) Once everyone is clear on the things they’re looking for, set a time limit and go find your things! At the end of your time, send pictures of the objects you found, (Or get really snazzy by starting a video call to present your treasures) and have fun getting to know your friends even better!

Group Challenges

With the world shut down and nowhere to go, it may seem terribly difficult to find motivation in our day to day life. The easiest way of living is to indulge in not wearing real pants for a month straight and drink nothing except coffee. What if instead of doing things like this, we try to challenge ourselves to build better habits over quarantine so when we come out an even better version of ourselves? You can try challenging your friends to join you in a self-care marathon, finding everything you can to improve and holding each other accountable to the things you choose to change.

Let’s Get Creative

Amplify the good that can come out of this time of quarantining and social distancing, and don’t let your precious time go to waste! Even though some of us are being pulled in and out of quarantine, depending on our exposure, we can still stay connected.

These are all just suggestions and ideas. You know what you and your friends like, so try customizing them to fit your style! Do you have any special things your family and friends have come up with over quarantine? Let us know in the comments.