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How to Stay Connected in the Age of Social Distancing

April 1, 2020

By Sydney Glass

By this point, we are all practicing social distancing and doing our part to remain healthy and prevent the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19. Many of us are already several days in and are starting to feel the effects of this limited social contact. It is important to emphasize that social distancing does not mean “social isolation.” It simply means that we have to maintain a certain physical distance (at least 6 feet!) from each other. Therefore, I want to mention things that we can do to make this experience less isolating and more enjoyable.

Visit a Virtual Museum: As we all know, traveling is not a good idea at this time, and most places that attract large crowds have closed. Thus, I recommend taking a virtual museum tour to satisfy the needs of the explorer/wanderlust individual. I know it does not beat seeing the real thing, but it’s a nice substitute for the time being. A number of popular museums, from the Louvre in Paris to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, offer free mini-tours online, and there’s something for everyone, especially the history lover![i] To find more virtual tours or simply learn about art and culture around the world, check out the Google Arts & Culture feature.

Read: You are probably thinking that, as grad students, we already do a lot of reading, leaving little room for anything else! However, I am not talking about our normal reading material for classes or work, but that for leisure and entertainment. I know everyone is still busy, especially with the shift to online classes and the change in everyday life, but I suggest carving out a little time in your daily schedule just to pick up a book. Whether it is a book you have been putting off since last summer or a suggestion from social media, you would be surprised at how reading can take your mind off this pressing situation, even if only for a few hours.[ii] Moreover, deeper reading has a number of benefits that you cannot get mindlessly scrolling through a news feed. With deeper reading, you can increase your knowledge on various subjects, maintain your critical thinking and analytical skills, and, above all, open your mind, thus broadening your perspective. It is shown to decrease levels of stress and anxiety, making it a great choice for improving your well-being at this time.[iii]

Listen to a Podcast: This is one of my personal favorites and has become a staple since I spend more time at home. It is great if you are cooking or doing another task that requires the use of your hands as you can just pop in your earbuds or let it play through the speakers of your device. If you are one of those people who dislike working in complete silence (I am one of those people!), then this is a perfect solution for you, as you can let it play in the background with limited distractions. Additionally, if you are more of a visual person, you can even watch podcasts (they are called videocasts!). What makes podcasts so awesome is that they are accessible (by phone or computer), affordable (they are usually free!), and have a wide range of content for everyone. Moreover, podcasts help build and sustain community, which is especially important during this situation. Almost any regular listener will tell you that part of the experience is feeling like you are right in the room with the podcaster and sharing those moments with other listeners from around the world, sometimes even in real-time. To help you get started, you can look for podcasts on Spotify, Apple, Google Play, YouTube, and any other major digital media platforms.[iv]

Be Social (virtually, of course!): While it’s important to maintain your physical distance, do not let it prevent you from staying connected. If we are going to get through this – and we will! – we have to do it together. That means that we have to be a source of social and emotional support for each other. One way to stay engaged is through social media as most platforms provide a messaging, calling, and/or video feature that allows you to connect quickly and easily. Additionally, it is a great place to post encouraging messages and beneficial information that people near you may need to know. If you are not a fan or have limited access to social media, try using other platforms to make video calls and share a virtual meal or do a watch party for your favorite show or a new movie with family and friends.[v] Another way that I am interested in trying is playing an online game with others. It is a fun way to socialize, potentially meet new people, and just take a break from reality.[vi]

I hope that this post has provided you with some activities that you can utilize moving forward and get you thinking of alternative ways to make this transition more manageable. More importantly, I hope that you stay healthy, positive, and resilient during this period. Until next time, grads!

Best,

Sydney


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[i] Andrea Romano, “Stuck at Home? These 12 Famous Museums Offer Virtual Tours You Can Take on Your Couch,” Travel + Leisure, last modified March 12, 2020, https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours

[ii] Scottie Andrew, “Social distancing doesn’t have to doom your weekends. We have ideas,” CNN, last modified March 20, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/14/us/what-to-do-this-weekend-coronavirus-trnd/index.html

[iii] Eric Sheridan Wyatt, “Benefits of Deep Reading: Claim Them for Yourself!,” Words Matter, last modified September 30, 2015, http://wordsmatteresw.com/2015/09/30/benefits-of-deep-reading-claim-them-for-yourself/

[iv] Jenna Wilson, “Seven reasons why podcasts are dominating the media landscape,” wework, last modified October 9, 2019, https://www.wework.com/ideas/worklife/seven-reasons-why-podcasts-are-dominating-the-media-landscape/

[v] Juliana Breines, “10 Ideas for Coping with Loneliness during Social Distancing,” Psychology Today, last modified March 18, 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-love-and-war/202003/10-ideas-coping-loneliness-during-social-distancing

[vi] Laurel Wamsley, “As Hanging Out Gets Difficult, More People Are Turning to Social Video Games,” npr, last modified March 19, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/03/19/818350972/as-hanging-out-gets-difficult-more-people-are-turning-to-social-video-games