There are a million articles on the internet right now about how to stay sane while in quarantine.

We’re told to use the time to rest.

Use the time to be super productive.

Set virtual happy hours.

Take some meditative alone time.

No matter how you plan to spend your social distance time, at some point, everyone needs a little human connection. Yes, even you, introverts. Obviously you, extroverts and of course those that fall somewhere in between.

Humans are a social species but not everyone is really interested in a million virtual happy hours serving “quarantinis.” So what else is there?

I’ve pulled together a few tools to help you navigate how you want to socialize from a distance.

If you’re like me, you’re into socializing but you’re also into quiet time. I’ve been working remotely for the last couple weeks and some of it has been great – like seeing my husband whenever I go grab water and getting to walk my dog at lunch every day.

Other parts of it have been isolating and stressful. I work at a law firm and we are BUSY! I don’t think I’ve ever put in these kinds of hours before. By the time I’m done working, I don’t have the energy to think about talking to anyone.

However, with a little bit of research and a little bit of planning (ok a significant amount of planning and sending calendar invites out), I’ve been setting up time to check in with friends, follow up with family and work with the Think Tank’s Tribe.

Here are the tools I’m seeing. Pick what works for you.

Video Conferencing

Video conferencing is awesome because you can use it so easily to bring groups together. Virtual happy hours, bible studies, webinars or educational meetings, family check ins. Being able to hear inflection and see facial expressions makes staying connected so much easier.

It also means that you have to remember to clean the mess up behind you before getting on camera. And maybe put on a shirt that doesn’t have holes in it.

  • Zoom appears to be the big winner in the video conferencing space right now. People are using it for remote meetings, virtual happy hours, recording meetings and podcasts. It’s a pretty robust tool, especially if you have the paid version.
    Depending on which level you pay for, you can accommodate anywhere from 100 to 500 participants on a video call.Several of my virtual happy hours have been hosted via Zoom. We also record the podcast on Zoom.
  • Skype is the second most popular tool I’ve seen for staying connected. The free version allows up to 25 people to be in a video chat. It’s also incredibly easy to use and has better pricing than Zoom. In addition to being a video and audio tool, it also has an instant messenger component.I use Skype to chat constantly but I don’t think the video is as clear as Zoom.
  • Google Hangouts is one of my favorites. I don’t use it much anymore because I use Zoom and Skype for work so adding a third platform just because I like it seems overkill. The video and audio are pretty good and the instant messenger component is also great. Hangouts has a free version and a paid version through G-Suite. With the free version you can get up to 150 people on a call and 250 in the paid version.I used this in a prior job and it was easy and seamless to use.
  • Facetime is for iOS/Apple devices only and it’s free.
    While I use it, it’s not my favorite. I don’t know if it’s my home internet, my phone or the person on the other end but the video and audio always seem to have a delay.  It does supposedly let you have up to 32 people on a call.I love that I can use it anywhere my Apple device has access to wifi or cell service but for me, it’s meh at best.

Sometimes staying connected means seeing someone’s face and being able to get the whole group together. If you’re looking to have a larger gathering, these tools are a great way to do that.

Apps to Stay Connected

There have been days over the couple weeks of self isolation where I have been so buried that I forgot to eat until I was hangry and ready to eat my own hand. On days like that, I want to be able to check in with my peeps but I might not be able to find time to really dig into a call or a video meeting and talk.

The tools below are great because they allow you to check in and then check back out without losing much.

  • WhatsApp is a tool I reluctantly stumbled into during my time at Leadership Tomorrow. It is basically an instant messaging tool for your mobile device that works internationally and also has some video and calling capability. I only use it for instant messaging but I have to admit that while I was reluctant to add it, I now use it all the time.
  • Facebook Messenger is a tool I don’t use. However, it seems popular. If you’re into this kind of thing, go for it. If you send me a message via Facebook, I promise I will never see it. It’s not you, well, it is kind of  you because you sent me a message on a tool I just told you I don’t use.
  • Marco Polo is one of my all time favorite apps. It’s basically video voicemail. You can talk to one person at a time or create a group. You can leave messages when you have time and then check your messages when you have time. My cousin’s kid referred to it as the Snap-Chat for old people but I’m fine with that. The messages don’t disappear and I feel like I can have some connection when I have the time to connect.

Humans, even the most introverted, need a little human time every now and again. These tools are great for letting you drop in and out of connection as it works for you.

Fun Times Ahead

So far the tools have been mostly for having a conversation. I don’t know about you, but I’m someone who likes to be a bit active with my friends and family.

I go watch Netflix and drink wine with my girlfriends. My husband and I go out for (board) game night usually monthly with 3 other couples. We play party games at parties with our friends. Part of being social is more than just having the conversation.

When you’re craving a little bit of activity with your humanizing, check out these tools.

  • Netflix Party is a Chrome Browser extension that allows you to sync up your Netflix with your friends to watch together. And there’s a chat option that let’s you talk all the crap about the person who runs up the stairs instead of out the doors in a horror flick.
  • Tabletopia is an online arena for playing board games just like in real life in your web browser. Whether you’re looking to play chess, Texas Hold ’em or Scythe, you can find the game here and invite your friends to play. With a paid version, you can invite your friends to play for free.
  • Jackbox Games and allow you to host a virtual game party on a series of platforms. You can play on your browser, your X-Box or your Apple TV. Once you buy a game, you own it and can play it as often as you like. The games are usually 1-8 players.
  • Online Board Games
    • Dominion is probably one of my favorite board games. I have played with several different groups of people, in different states and different expansion packs. I couldn’t tell you what about it I love but knowing I can grab some of my friends and family to play this, even when I can’t see them is so much fun!
    • Settlers of Catan, to be honest, is a game I kind of hate. Mostly because I’m a sore loser and this game kicks my butt every time. However, its fun for lots of other people and it’s easy to play online with your friends.
    • Pandemic might be a little too close to reality right now but it also might make you feel like you’re part of a community. This is a cooperative game so you play with your friends to try to beat the board and stop the spread of diseases. So it’s kind of perfect right now while we’re all staying inside to stop the spread of COVID-19.
    • Ticket to Ride is a travel game with the goal being to build a railroad to more places faster than your competitors. If you’re feeling that itch to wander but are staying put, it’s a fun game to play with the Travel Channel on in the background.

You don’t have to just talk to socialize. You don’t have to put an emphasis on seeing the faces and hearing the voices. If being active is more your thing, then use one of the tools above to stay connected without needing to talk.

Social Media

This list would be incomplete if we didn’t include social media. While there are studies showing it’s bad for your mental health, it’s also a way to stay connected to your community, especially when you can’t hang out with your community.

  • LinkedIn for your professional community. I’ve been reading up on how my colleagues are weathering this storm. There is just as much information on how to stay positive on this platform as there are articles about the coronavirus.
  • Facebook for me is where I go to see updates on my family and friends. I heavily filter and snooze people who talk about politics or post home sales products so that when I go there, it’s not a negative or annoying place. But that takes a lot of work to cultivate Facebook to be a place you get joy instead of angst from. Use sparingly or put in the work to make it positive.
  • Twitter is both the internet’s wasteland and also a place filled with wonder. Only you can decide whether this is social or noise.
  • Instagram is by far my favorite platform. I follow ALL OF THE DOGS and a fox and a raccoon and hikers and full bodied women who preach about positive body image. Again, this is a cultivated feed where all of the things that bring me joy pop up on the regular. Also I post a lot of pictures of my dogs. Who wouldn’t love Instagram?
  • Whatever else the kids are doing these days. Let them tell you about anything else that’s cool and hip.

Now that I’ve spent nearly 2,000 words telling you how to stay connected to your tribe while social distancing, I hope you go out in search of ways to hang with the people who mean the most to you.

But also, I hope you Instagram, MarcoPolo and play Dominion online because those are obviously the best.

What did I miss? How else are you using the internet or apps to stay connected to your tribe?

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash