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Lifestyle

11 Unique Ways To Stay Connected While Apart

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There’s no denying – I (Sara) lean more introvert than I do extrovert. So I’ve been finding some real silver linings with my sudden lack of social obligations. I know that I’m going through this situation with a list of undeniable privileges (I have a safe home to live in and feel safe being here with my partner, we’re financially able to stay afloat for the time being, and much of my immediate family is also able to stay home so I’m not constantly concerned for their safety – all of which are things I know aren’t a reality for everyone). On the other hand, I also know there are a lot of people like me right now, feeling extremely lucky to be safe at home, but also trying to navigate towards a “new normal” during this time. And while this introvert isn’t feeling starved for human contact yet, I am surprisingly missing a few people.

Because it doesn’t look like we’re gonna be back to hosting dinner parties anytime soon, we thought it could be fun to round-up some of the more fun and unique ways we’ve been connecting with the people we miss in our lives (while also hoping you’ll share yours with us – because I can only play “codenames” online so many times in a week).

FIRST, OUR FAVORITE VIDEO CONFERENCING APPS

A lot of these ideas require video conferencing so I thought we’d share some of our favorites (likely some you already know and some maybe you don’t):

  • Facetime – Probably most you know about this ole faithful but if not this will change your life. If you have an iPhone or iPad this is a super easy, built-in function. And now you can even conference with multiple people.
  • Zoom – This is the app we’ve been using on our desktops for all our EHD team meetings. It has a great “gallery” function, and the first 40 minutes are free. You can also use it on your phone if you don’t have a desktop. AND to keep things exciting you can change your background (it acts like a green screen). They are some fun built-in ones (like a beautiful beach) but you can also import your own photos. Jess is going to a zoom birthday party and everyone is choosing their favorite photo on the birthday girl as their background. What a time we are in:)
  • UberConference – This is another free conference line, and people can join either via video on their computer or phone line for audio-only.
  • Google Hangout – Mac and his work team use Google Hangouts for their video conferencing. You can schedule calls on google calendar and send out invites with automatic links.
  • Houseparty – This is one Jess recommended, and it’s more geared towards casual video chatting. You can have open chats where anyone how has been added as a friend can join or private chats where you control who joins. Plus it has built-in games you can all play. I’m super excited to try this one this weekend.

WRITE AN ORIGINAL STORY FOR SOMEONE (LIKE, A KID)

Emily’s mom recently emailed Charlie and Elliot original stories that she’d written for them. That might possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever heard of. Emily says they read them together snuggled on the couch.

OFFER TO READ A STORY TO A KID OVER FACETIME

Take that “original story” idea and kick it up a notch by offering to read it over video call to said child. Not much of a writer? Then grab a favorite book and read that instead (be sure to get a good angle of the book for optimal picture viewing if it’s a picture book). A bunch of celebrities have been doing this on social media, and I can only imagine that it’s giving parents a much needed 15 minutes of zone-out time to have someone else doing the reading (and to switch it up from Cosmic Kids Yoga or Frozen II for the hundredth time). Especially if someone wants the book repeated 5-10 times. By the way, there’s also a website called Storyline Online, where you can find hundreds of videos of well-known actors reading kids’ books.

SEND SOMEONE AN OUT-OF-THE-BLUE COMPLIMENT (AND SHARE IT ON INSTAGRAM STORIES WITH THE #EHDCOMPLIMENT JAR)

If you missed it over on Em’s Instagram, we kicked off something new called the #EHDComplimentJar. It’s a concept based off a tradition Jess started here at the company, and that we now do for each employee’s birthday. We get a pretty vessel, have everyone on the team write 3-4 compliments for that person, print them, cut them out, fold them up, and fill the vessel with all the compliments. Then we go out to a happy hour, and make the birthday human read each compliment aloud (and if they’re into it, guess who wrote each one). It’s quickly become one of our favorite activities, and we wanted to figure out a way to translate it over to social media.

The main idea is to just send someone an out-of-the-blue compliment, because we promise it will make their day and make you feel SO good. But if you’d like, take it one step further and share that compliment on Instagram Stories (either by sharing a screenshot of your text/message, or by creating a story with your compliment directly on there). Tag your friend, tag Emily (@em_henderson), and use the hashtag #EHDcomplimentjar. We’re sharing a few extra sweet compliments over the next few weeks on Em’s stories.

LEARN TO PLAY DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (AND PLAY OVER ZOOM WITH YOUR FRIENDS)

Hear me out, because I know a few of you are seriously questioning my judgment/and or sanity. Dungeons & Dragons (popularly known as D&D) is seeing a huge resurgence in popularity right now. Why? Because it’s weird, and silly, and totally fun. D&D is a story-based role-playing game. And you don’t actually need anything, besides a video chat app, a group of friends ready to play, and some time to learn the rules (you don’t even need dice, one of the main mechanics of the traditional game, you can use Google instead). I played my first game last year, and Brian Henderson himself played his first game last week.

PLAY AN ONLINE GAME WITH FRIENDS

Without a doubt, D&D is a bit more involved than other games. But if that’s not your jam, there are plenty of other online games out there you can play online with friends. And I’m not talking video games, I mean board game simulators. An online version of the popular game Codenames is one super easy example. There are also lots of board game simulations out there, all you need is a computer and the internet. A few examples of places to find online board game to play with friends are Steam, Board Game Arena, and Tabletopia.

TAKE A VIDEO COOKING CLASS (TAUGHT BY A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER)

I’m used to driving back home to Claremont once a week to eat dinner at my grandma’s with my family, and it’s one of the things I’m missing the most right now. My grandmother is from Guatemala and doesn’t speak very much English, so it’s also the one time during the week when I really practice my Spanish. But I’m about to order some sort of video device (like a Portal) for her, that way we can start doing weekly cooking lessons (in Spanish) instead. It’s a win, win, win. I get to practice my Spanish, learn how to make a favorite dish from my culture, and check in on my grandma. I got this idea when my friend walked me through a dinner recipe one night over Facetime, and I was like “I could do this with my grandma!”

WATCH A MOVIE ON NETFLIX AS A GROUP

Now this one you may have heard of, but someone very clever out in the world created their own app called Netflix Party that allows you to watch anything on Netflix as a group – which means if one person pauses it pauses for everyone, syncs the movie perfectly, and has a chat window built-in so y’all can chat while watching. This is best used on a laptop, but I did it this past weekend and it was VERY fun. Veronica is a big fan.

MAKE YOUR BEST FRIEND YOUR NEW PENPAL

In college my best friend and I didn’t have a ton of time to speak on the phone, so we’d write each other these insanely long emails with all the gossip, drama, and life updates we had. Writing to a friend can be SO fun, and it’s almost like journaling. Especially if you’re in a house with someone else, and you just need to vent (because you’ve now noticed how loud the chew their food *glances pointedly at Mac*), but can’t really get away for a private phone call – write it out! Plus, you’ll have the fun ability to go back in time and read them all again in 10 years for optimum cringe.

ORGANIZE A VIDEO HAPPY HOUR

Just because you might be alone in your house, doesn’t mean you have to drink alone. Every Friday at 5 pm the EHD team pours themselves a drink, and hop on zoom for our end of week team meeting. The drinks and happy hour vibe have done nothing but IMPROVE our meetings, truly. It’s always fun to see them, but it’s extra fun to cheers, knowing the weekend is right around the corner.

DO A VIRTUAL WORKOUT WITH A FRIEND

I’ve been having a really hard motivating myself to workout (which is kinda understandable). But my friend has kept bugging me to video call her, and do a yoga workout together. I finally caved, and I have to admit… it was SO GOOD. We motivated each other to hold our planks just a little longer, we both rolled our eyes at the suggestion of adding reps, and I actually finished the whole workout because my friend was there to keep me accountable. And then we both just laid on the floor after and kept chatting for a bit.

ORGANIZE A LONG DISTANCE PLAYDATE FOR YOUR KIDS

Em is always saying how lucky she and Brian feel that Charlie and Elliot are close enough in age to play together while up at the mountain house, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not missing their friends back home too. Em said that they’ve been letting the kids have video “playdate” sessions with some of their friends back in LA. The kids love seeing each other and especially playing with all the fun video filters that a lot of the video apps come programmed with.

GO FOR A WALK AND CALL YOUR IMPORTANT PEOPLE

So this isn’t an original idea, but I just want to throw it out there. I’ve been taking 30-60 minutes walks every day (solo), and I usually blast some feel-good music. But the other day I decided to call my mom first. It made her feel good, it made me feel good, and I got to enjoy the rest of my walk knowing that my parents were doing ok. Talking on the phone has always felt like a bit of a chore for me, but it’s really just the dialing part that throws me off. Once I’m in conversation it feels easy, and I’m always like “why don’t I call people more often?” So whether it’s your mom, dad, grandma, aunt, godmother, best friend, WHOEVER – pick up the phone and call them.

And we have to admit, though it may sound like pure cheese, connecting with all of you in the comments makes it to the top of our lists 🙂 THANK YOU so much for being here every day to share a few minutes with us – we hope being here makes your day a little brighter, and know that all your sweet comments DO make our days brighter without a doubt. And if you have any suggestions for more unique ways that you’ve been connecting with loved ones or friends during this time, please share in the comments! We can’t wait to try them.

Fin Mark

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Christie

Thank you for all the wonderful posts since we’ve all been sheltering in place. You ladies are doing such an amazing job, and giving me motivation to do things with friends AND around the house. Thanks for posting multiple times a day, I have been reading them all!!

O thank makes us SO happy!!

Julie

2 posts helpful posts. Thank you EHD team!

You are so welcome! Hope you have fun with some of these ideas:)

Jessica

I’ve been resisting setting up a lot of video happy hours, because getting a bunch of people not to talk over each other can be hard and it can be not so fun, but I realized the other day that I’ve been remotely organizing meetups with my co-organizers for five years now – we’re amazing at video conferencing! So it’s ok to do one-on-one chats with some people and reserve anything bigger for people who already have the skillz to make it fun.

My spouse and his bro & fam did that Ellen Degeneres guessing game app over video… It was more fun than we expected, as long as we weren’t too caught up in getting everything right. The girls are like 4 and 7, so the little one needed to be told what the word was (and would occasionally just yell it out), but she didn’t seem to mind/understand that we were laughing at her 😉

Lynne

Thank you so much for the great suggestions.
I have been organizing my home and in the process, found saved thank you notes, photographs and letters. I have been texting the writers of these beautiful thank you notes…a photo of their note and why it meant so much to me. The same for photos—a discussion starts and we feel more connected because of our shared memories. As for the letters, I shall bundle and send to the writers—a diary of sorts.
For my family—we have group texts with everyone chiming in with their memories.
It has been uplifting and connecting.
Be well.

Rusty

Aaah….I created what I called “Sweeties Boxes” for my partner and I, where we (okay, I) put extra special notes, b’day cards, etc.
I’ve planned to reorganize them, because for a few years I’ve just lifted the lid and stuck things in.
BUT now, I’m going to revisit some with the people who sent them.
Great idea, thanx! ?

Jess

My son has been playing battleship with a friend. 🙂
Also, I AM THE SAME with the phone. I have to pep talk myself thru the dial. But once the talk starts it’s good.
Or when a call comes in and I don’t feel like answering, I often think, “oh! But if you don’t answer then YOU WILL HAVE TO CALL BACK. AGH, NO.” so I answer. And the ppl on the other end are rarely scary.
As an introvert I’m trying to really reach out and care for my extroverts. I’m living my dream life, the least I can do is be willing to make myself uncomfortable a few times a day to reach out to people who I know are not loving the seclusion.

Felicia

The writers of this blog use so many parenthetical statements. It’s almost one per paragraph on average. Many of these are unnecessary and can just be stand-alone sentences. I find it hard to read.

Rusty

?

Niki

What is the benefit of a comment like this? If you genuinely feel there is room for improvement in their writing style, email them privately. Posting a public comment gives the impression that you are more interested in displaying your grammatical prowess to gain a feeling of superiority.

Fei Gao

Team EHD for President! Thanks for your continuous colourful content.
Another great story-time app for kids is “Epic!”. They’ve got such an array of books (entertaining readers as well) and there’s an option to make the words pop out as they’re being read aloud, many DIY and tutorial videos across most interests, and a host of self-entertained kids as a result.
A little trick for Zoom if you’re needing more than 40mins: when creating a new meeting, set your meeting ID as a “recurring meeting”. Once Zoom has ended your session you can just reload the meeting ID and resume. I also just find it nice to have a recurring meeting ID so you don’t have to create a new meeting every time. Just let your people know when you’re dialing in and they can too with the same ID as always (basically everyone’s new universal phone number).
Stay safe and happy, everyone! Take care. X, Fei

You are so sweet and thank you for all the tips!

Roberta Davis

How lucky are you to have a grandma from Guatemala- who cooks for you! And teaches you to cook! You have given me a few good ideas for connecting with my grandkids- for now and for infinity and beyond! This was so helpful, I posted in on Facebook! Thanks!

Thank you for sharing! xx

Suzanne

This is a wonderful roundup of ideas to connect! I just met up with friends on Zoom last night, and my yoga teacher of 15 years started doing classes on Zoom a couple weeks ago. Like Sara, I’m an introvert, so I don’t mind a slight downturn in my social life, but these tools have really been great. I’m also scheduling phone calls with friends (scheduling, because there’s now homeschooling going on). My teen plays D&D and another tabletop RPG using Discord. She’s been doing voice chat on Hangouts with friends and playing other games online with friends, too.

Just because I saw a recommendation for it on another list — something worth looking into for your elderly friends/family is a GrandPad! They come very highly reviewed and seem to be pretty easy to set-up long distance. Thought I’d mention it as a resource!

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