How to Prevent Loneliness During Social Distancing: Plan a Meal with Friends, Virtually

updated Mar 18, 2020
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FaceTime call with friend
Credit: Amelia Rampe

We all know what “social distancing” is by now as we try to settle into our new way of being. Humankind is doing what we can in order to #FlattenTheCurve and now many of us are working from home. (So much gratitude to doctors, nurses, grocery workers and delivery people who don’t have that luxury).

While there is a huge part of me that loves to work from home, stay in my jammies, cozy up, and spiral out in a hygge-fueled anti-social abyss, I also am a person who craves and needs social interactions. Beyond that, I work in a food related industry where many of my friends are restaurant owners, chefs and service people. Between the social distancing and now mandatory restaurant closures, I find myself feeling further away from my people than ever before.

As we all navigate through new information daily, any face-to-face plans have officially become TBD. This makes it difficult to maintain routine in the absence of our daily structure. Studies show that quarantine can cause a number negative effects such as depression and PTSD. A contributing factor to these effects is the isolation: the feeling of being cut-off from the outside world, the fear of not knowing how long this will last or if you have enough money or food, and the reality of being stripped of your independence.

Social Distancing without Social Isolation

A few days ago, a friend and I were DM-ing: We have been unsuccessfully trying to line up a lunch date since the New Year. I joked that with the way things were headed, our lunch date is going to happen via video conference. I knew that what I was saying was more than a joke as soon as the words came out of my mouth: Virtual interactions would be our new reality

Virtual meetings offer a semblance of our life before quarantine. Having a virtual meeting in the middle of my work day gives me a break from the work-from-home-monotony and a goal to work toward when I need a reason to remain focused on the task at hand. Most importantly it gives me a reason to prioritize self-care like making myself lunch, putting on my eyebrows (LOL) and putting on a clean shirt (but maybe not pants).

Today, I met my friend’s newborn daughter and got a close up view of her sweet sleepy face, something I would not get to do even if I lived in the same town right now. I had a video coffee break with another friend, who mentioned that several people have checked-in with her today. People in general are reaching out to be in communication because community is a human necessity.

How to Plan a Virtual Date with Friends

At this point we have no choice but to accept this new (and hopefully very temporary) way of life and truly utilize the technologies we have available. It is our responsibility to remain diligent in maintaining connectedness. Luckily, for us, this is 2020 and we have the tools literally at our fingertips to get us through. This is actually a pretty ideal time to be confined to our homes. Could you imagine how isolated we would be if we were quarantined 30 or 40 years ago? 

Services, such as Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Zoom and WhatsApp are free to use. Reach out to your friends, especially if they live alone. Regularly schedule virtual yoga and happy hours with your friends; make a meal together, have a jam sesh, bake some brownies and have a coffee break; watch shows, make a lunch date, everyday, together

Our mental and emotional well-being depends on it. We’re going to need a routine to cling to during these uncertain times and we’re going to need some friends to help us through.