Staying Connected

Whenever I’ve been feeling blue in the past few weeks I open Instagram and join a Social Disdance Party.  Their first dance was on March 16th, the week when the world was turned upside down by the Corona Virus. Advertised on social media and open to all,  the parties are held over Zoom and bring together a genuinely eclectic mix of people. Sparkly club kids shared the screen with ballet dancers doing pirouettes, while couples tangoed and a grandmother in her wheelchair stared happily at the screen. Social Disdance is a weird – yet wonderful – example of how people are celebrating the human spirit at a time when it’s very much needed.   

Writing about the importance of parties seems like an odd thing to focus on right now, but it turns out that socializing has never been more necessary or important for our mental health. Extraverts (like yours truly ) suffer the most from self-isolation. “After just a few days, they literally feel like they are mentally and emotionally starving to death,” says Dr. Eric Seemann, associate professor of psychology at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).  

The easiest way to mitigate the feelings of loneliness during this period? Just Say Yes to a Zoom Cocktail party. High School reunions, camp meet-ups, and even charity lunches have moved online with great results. One philanthropist said, “We all brought our sandwiches, got a ton accomplished and I didn’t even need to get dressed up.” 

 While under normal circumstances you might not feel like sipping a martini staring a screen full of people you consciously avoided for 20 years—right now, you won’t believe how good it feels to reconnect. A few hours chatting every day with friends is a quick trip to an emotional spa; your mental state is swiftly restored. 

But with any quick fix, moderation is key. And for those who spend too long hopping from Zoom Cocktail hours to Facetime dinner parties, the potential for Zoom Burnout is real. Also keep in mind that Zoom has a few kinks- for example, too many people on the call means that it can be hard to hear everyone. Up to 100 people can join at a time, so the opportunity for simultaneous babble is not unheard of. With that in mind, it might be helpful to plan your Zoom gatherings accordingly (or keep them password protected?). 

 For those who prefer a smaller and more spontaneous social experience, there is Houseparty. The app allows up to 8 people maximum—about how many people you’d want to invite to an intimate dinner party— and encourages people to “drop” in. 

Popular in Europe, some of the functions initially caused a couple of awkward moments when users interrupted their friend’s calls without warning. A number of people accidentally found themselves in conversations that were clearly personal before  discovering you can “lock” the room for privacy.

None of these temporary solutions are ever going to replace hugs or even in-person hellos, but for now, take the time to reach out online or over the phone and just talk to someone. You’ll feel better for it, I promise.  

There is no question that my mother, one of the most social people I know, surprised me by telling me how much fun she had at a virtual philanthropic lunch for one of her charities the other day. As she said in the best part, “None of us had to dress up- at least not from the waist down…” (which meant she donned a simple white shirt instead of having to bother with a dress and high heels) “and I was able to enjoy my favorite tuna fish sandwich for lunch, rather than the usual cold salmon…” 

 From constant Zoom Cocktail parties to Houseparty drop-ins to virtual charity lunches, people are still finding ways to connect and give-back, all of which will help us get through this horrible period. 

While Zoom will certainly have changed the way we do business, there is a chance that Zoom will also change how we see friends from out of town. It only took years and a pandemic for my high school class to plan its long awaited reunion- and it seems as though all of us are happy we finally made it happen. Silver linings can exist in this, sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the extra time…

There is much that will be lost as a result of COVID-19, but if there is one thing that we all hope will come out of it, it’s better ways to remain connected.