The coronavirus crisis has changed everything about the way we interact with one another. From the weeks and months spent apart from loved ones, to the two-metre distances we maintain in public, the effects of the crisis extend far beyond the physical threat of the virus.
And although the suggestion is bittersweet, there’s no better time in history to remain connected as we isolate from one another.
These past months have seen incredible innovations in the ways we socialise – while some have used digital platforms to emulate real life, others have devised inspiring new ways to experience togetherness in the physical world while observing social distancing.
These are just five of the incredible ways people across the world are socialising with one another remotely.
1. Virtual Office
The concept of a remote office is not necessarily new, although its merits have been hotly debated in recent years.
However, it has become the norm for many workers since the crisis began, meaning that companies have had to adapt to their new circumstances.
Video calling apps like Zoom have become crucial to such organisations since the crisis began, and while some workers may not relish those 9am on-camera meetings, there’s no doubt that Zoom is one of the most valuable tools available to businesses at the moment.
It hasn’t all been serious business though – workers have been spicing up their daily Zoom meetings in a number of imaginative ways. No doubt you’ll have logged on at least once to find your co-workers sporting virtual backgrounds of sandy beaches, famous cities and iconic film sets.
And thanks to San Francisco sanctuary Sweet Farm, you can even hire a goat to join your conference call! They might not have many business-savvy ideas to bring to the table, but they’ll definitely put a smile on everyone’s face.
2. Virtual Events
Amongst the mundane everyday experiences that aren’t currently possible during lockdown, many have faced disappointments in the form of cancelled weddings, proms, graduations and more.
But once again, technology has been at the forefront of innovation here, and it won’t surprise you to learn that Zoom weddings have become a popular substitute for couples who have had their big day cancelled. These are so popular, in fact, that Vogue has even compiled a guide to planning your virtual ceremony.
While states like New York have modified the law to render remote marriages legally binding, not everywhere has followed their lead, including the UK. But that hasn’t stopped many couples hosting virtual weddings until they can have a legally binding ceremony in person at a later date.
3. Virtual Hangouts
It’s a testament to the way technology has touched every aspect of our daily lives that it’s become the default tool for us to connect with one another remotely in more ways than might be immediately obvious.
With friends unable to see each other, and many couples turning to virtual dates, there are now multiple ways to simulate a physical hangout experience.
Google Chrome extension Netflix Party is one of the most popular of these. Once added to the browser, it generates a link which can be shared with friends and will allow them to synchronise watching the same film or TV show. It also generates an on-screen chat function so you can keep the conversation going.
Those who have missed their favourite real-world hangouts haven’t been far behind on digital adaptation either. The immersive nature of simulative and world-building video games has been put to good use by many, including the MIT students who recreated their university campus on Minecraft in incredible detail – from the dorms to the iconic Great Dome, and even part of the Charles River!
The pub closures haven’t stopped quizzers either, with many using apps like Zoom, Facebook Live, and Kahoot to host virtual pub quizzes – if you’re interested, you can find one for every day of the week.
4. Virtual Creativity
For many, lockdown has been an opportunity to develop their creative skills, and many artists have been inspired by the circumstances of these strange times.
At the start of the outbreak, moving images from balconies in Italy touched viewers around the world, as singers and instrumentalists of all styles and talents entertained and united their neighbourhoods with music.
The trend has spread across Europe, and even DJs have joined in the fun. Whilst some have used balconies to host social distancing dance parties for the residents of apartment blocks, others are using platforms like Twitch and Facebook Live to stream their sets worldwide, allowing would-be partiers to recreate the nightclub experience from their own living rooms.
Live-streamed music events aren’t just a fringe movement either. Whilst many individual artists have been streaming performances to their fans on YouTube and Instagram Live, there have been a number of collaborative events as well, including Lady Gaga’s One World: Together At Home, an eight hour extravaganza that features performances by artists as diverse as The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Paul McCartney, The Killers, Lizzo, Billie Eilish and many others.
5. Virtual Support
These incredible innovations in connection and communication have enabled people across the world to support one another during this period of isolation.
And since lockdown can pose psychological challenges, tech solutions are helping us all improve our self-care regimes and maintain mental wellbeing.
The last few years has seen a rise in wellness apps like Calm and Headspace, which provide users with guided meditations that aim to reduce stress and promote relaxation. While apps like these are seeing a rise in popularity during lockdown, they’re not the only ones of their kind.
Whimsical AI apps like Wysa are also providing users with a bit of virtual relief. The app features a bot which talks their users through their feelings and offer them helpful coping mechanisms such as breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques.
For those who don’t feel ready to talk (with a human or AI), there has been a spate of free classes available online, where you can learn the basics of cathartic activities like fitness, baking, writing, drawing and more.
Meditation and yoga are also high on the list of feel-good pastimes people are discovering – even the Liverpool FC squad have been in on the fun!
As you can see, there are countless imaginative ways we’re continuing to connect in the most challenging circumstances – we hope you’ve been inspired by these amazing examples!
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