The phrase "social isolation" gives the wrong impression. We should keep the social, while maintaining a physical distance.
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Alright, it looks like last week’s Hail Mary didn’t quite work and we’re all still stuck at home doing the social isolation thing.
That’s an interesting term that they picked isn’t it, social isolation? I think it’s a bit of a fucked up term because it sort of implies that we have to just stay away from everyone, and have zero interactions with anyone else.
But that’s totally not the case. As a matter of fact, I’d like to encourage people to not only talk with others, but also reach out to friends, family, neighbors, or whatever. Initiate the conversation. Now, I’m not suggesting that you all go down to the bar for happy hour or anything. You probably can’t anyway because it’s closed. But there are a number of ways you can communicate with other people while still maintaining the physical distance or barriers.
I think this is important especially for people who might live alone, or for those who get the majority of their social interaction in person outside of their home. Even more importantly, is when there are people who are struggling with finding their sense of purpose while their job might be on hold, or some volunteer work they do is put off for the foreseeable future. If that sounds like you, I know it’s really important to maintain that sense of purpose. And if you’re struggling to figure out what your purpose is these days, maybe you could be the one who checks in on the folks in your life.
So how do we do this?
OK, first off I realize that not everyone out there is a tech geek like me, so not only will I introduce a few tools you can use, but I’ll also walk you through how to use them as best as I can.
Facebook is a pretty common platform that a lot of people are already on and familiar with. I’ll start here because it’s a pretty low barrier to entry. If you don’t have a Facebook account, it’s 2020, just sign up for one. It kills me when I hear people, especially vets, say “oh I don’t want Facebook to take all of my information, I value my privacy too much.” It’s like, you were in the military, all your shit’s out there anyway. You had no privacy in the military, just sign up for the damn account. You can delete it after all this crap blows over if you want.
Alright, so how do we keep in touch on Facebook? Of course, you could post updates to your timeline, or stories or whatever, but that isn’t a real connection. But they do have a pretty useful feature where you can video chat with your friends. If you click the little messenger icon - it looks like a speech bubble with a lightning bolt in it, you can click a friend’s name or search for a friend you haven’t chatted with before. In their message window, there’s a video camera looking icon. Click that and you can start a video chat with the other person. There’s also an icon that looks like a telephone. If you click that you can start a voice only call with that person.
You can also do a group call with several people at once. Maybe you have family scattered around the country or several friends that you want to chat with. Create a group message with those people, and then you can do the same thing.
Like I said, the nice thing about Facebook is a lot of people already use it and are familiar with the platform. There’s a low learning curve there, so it shouldn’t be a huge technological burden. No software to install, it’s free, and people are already there.
Facetime is nice if everyone you want to chat with has Apple devices, whether it’s an iPhone, iPad, or a Mac computer. If you all have one of those devices, you should be good to go. Apple makes it pretty intuitive on how to do that, so I won’t go into too much detail. The downside is that if someone you want to connect with doesn’t have an Apple device - maybe they have an Android phone, a or Windows computer, they won’t be able to use it. There are some third party apps that claim that they can use Facetime on Windows, but I don’t know if I really trust them all that much. If you give it a try and it works though, great I guess.
Zoom is another tool that you can use to do video chats with some people. It’s free for one-on-one meetings or you can do more people for up to 40 minutes at a time. If you want longer you can upgrade to one of their paid plans, which is like $15 a month, which for a month or two isn’t too bad. Hopefully this shit’s over by then.
OK, so head over to zoom.us and sign up for a free account. There’s a blue button at the top of the screen that says sign up it’s free. Once you’re all set up you get a personal meeting room that you can send to whoever you want to meet with. It’s just a link that you and your guests can use to chat. Send that over by email, text message, burn it into their lawn, whatever.
Now, the downside to this is that everyone who uses this needs to install some software on their computers for it to work. The plus side to this is it’s super easy to install. When you or your guests click the link it’ll prompt you to install the software if you don’t have it already installed. Just agree to all the prompts and it’ll do it’s thing.
The one thing you’ll want to pay attention to is that you will need to be logged into your account for it to recognize you as the host. Being the host lets you control the meeting, mute or boot people, or whatever.
I actually use Zoom to record most podcast interviews when I have a guest because most of my guests are from all over the country.
OK, just like Zoom, Skype is another popular video chat tool. Honestly, there’s not much difference between Skype and Zoom for what we’re talking about here so, use whichever works best for you. If you try one and it doesn’t seem to be working for you, try the other. Like Zoom, Skype requires software to be installed first. You can go over to skype.com and find the download information. I think you also need a Microsoft account to use it, but they have the signup stuff over on their website too.
The only other thing I’ll mention is that for all of these tools, everyone you want to chat with needs to be using the same tool. You can’t be using Skype while someone else is using Zoom and expect to be able to connect together. You both need to use Skype or both need to use Zoom, or whatever other tool you decide to use.
Alright, there are other tools out there you can use. I think this is enough for you to get connected with the people in your life. If you need others do a Google search and find what you need. You shouldn’t need much other than this though.
So, what can you do with these tools?
The obvious answer is you can call people and chat with them. I mean that makes sense. But there’s more to it.
Maybe you have a group of friends that you typically do happy hour with on Friday nights or something. If the bars and restaurants in your area are closed and you can’t do your typical happy hour anymore, why not host a virtual happy hour? Everyone can grab their drink of choice - it doesn’t even have to be alcohol if they don’t drink, and join in the same chat. In a way it’s like you are all sitting around the same table, obviously without physically being in the same room or at the same table.
Maybe it’s not a happy hour. You could meet for coffee, or dinner. The point is you’re getting together with people and making that connection that we’re all missing right now.
I saw a few friends of mine had done a virtual karaoke night. They did it using Zoom, pulled up some songs on YouTube or Spotify or something, cranked the volume on their computer and sang songs. That might not be your cup of tea, it’s not mine, I don’t even sing in the shower. But if that’s up your alley then what the hell it can’t hurt to give it a try. Worst case is it sucks and you just hang out and chat with your friends for a little while.
This next idea is a little out there, but I saw someone post on Twitter that they did virtual beer pong. Each person set up one set of cups on a table, and pointed a computer at them so the other team could see it. They also used their phone so their face could be on as well. So one camera on the cups, another on the person. Again, it’s out there, but it’s possible.
If you’re in a book club, there’s no reason why you can’t still meet up. Just take your in person club and meet virtually.
You could play board games with each other. It might require that you all have the same game to play, or if not you have one person set up the game and do all the moving of the pieces or whatever. It’s different, but it could work. If you need to roll the dice to play the game, you can Google dice roller, and Google actually has a randomized dice roller that you can click the button and have it give you a random number 1-6.
One of the cool features in Zoom is that you can do a screenshare. So if you have a family member or friend that is having trouble with their computer, you can have them share their screen with you so you can help troubleshoot the problem for them.
Maybe you’re really good at something like building or fixing things, playing the guitar, cooking, baking, yoga, or whatever. You can use these tools to teach other people. It’s actually a pretty decent way to do it because you can teach a large number of people at the same time without the need to get everyone to the same location at the same time. Plus you can record your session with a lot of these tools, and post the video to YouTube later, which lets you help even more people. It’s even better if that thing you’re teaching is something you already do for work, because it might help get your business some exposure, which could lead to new customers in the future. You know, once all this dust settles.
I saw a video that a friend posted to Facebook the other day of some old Italian lady teaching people how to make pasta online. She usually does in person classes in her area, but since their whole country is locked down, she moved the classes online with the help of her granddaughter.
This can also be good for kids who are still out of school. Many schools are doing some version of online learning, but it’s probably not great. And this is not blaming the teachers or schools at all. They were in sort of a tough spot having the rug pulled out from under them. This isn’t how they were expecting to have to teach and evaluate their students. But parents might be looking for some supplemental education. If you can teach something to those kids, that might help those parents out quite a bit.
Of course, if you’re going to do something like this you’ll need to let people know about it. You can post information about it in local community Facebook groups, or other social platforms. I know the neighborhood I live in has a Facebook group where we can post things like this. Your city or town might have something similar. If you want to get paid for teaching these people, you’ll probably need to set up some sort of online payment system. You can have a PayPal link where people can pay you, then you send them the link to join your class after they’ve paid. That’s a quick and easy solution. There are more robust solutions like setting up a learning management system on a website where you collect payments. That can work too. I suppose the level of involvement you have with this will depend on how much you plan on offering, or whether or not you already have a website. If this is a one-off thing and you don’t already have a website, I wouldn’t suggest building one for this. If you think you might do this more often you might want to think about building one or adding to an existing site.
I’d like to actually hear from you. What are you doing to keep sane while you’re stuck at home? I mean most businesses around are closed, so even if you wanted to go out there aren’t too many options. So, what are you up to at home? Are you doing anything creative, or are you going stir crazy?