Social distancing doesn’t have to mean isolation. Thankfully, we live in the digital era and there are apps to help friends and family stay connected.
On Sunday, March 29, President Trump extended social distancing guidelines through the end of April. The coronavirus is continuing to spread rapidly. At the time of posting, the United States had 368,449 confirmed cases of COVID-19—more than any other nation—according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
At this point, it’s hard to know whether we’ll be returning back to normal life and gathering again with loved ones and friends at the end of April. Infectious-disease experts and scientists warn it will take even longer for the COVID-19 outbreak to slow down, and people will need to continue practicing social distancing.
Staying connected during the COVID-19 crisis may seem like a challenge. But social distancing doesn’t have to mean isolation. Fortunately, we live in the digital era, which means we have a multitude of ways to stay in touch—from a distance. Here are some of our favorite apps and websites that help families and friends stay connected.
Netflix Party (www.netflixparty.com). This app—an extension of Google Chrome—allows you to watch movies and shows that are available on the Netflix streaming service at the exact same time as other users—and chat about it in real-time. While it’s not the same as going to the movies on a Friday night, you can still pop a bag of popcorn, text your friends, and ask them to watch the latest season of “Ozark” with you.
Marco Polo (www.marcopolo.me). Marco Polo, an app available on both Apple and Android devices, was created by Vlada and Michael Bortnik as a way to help their young children stay in touch with family members who lived across the United States and other parts of the world. The Bortniks struggled to coordinate time zones for video calls, so they invented Marco Polo, an app that allows people to send video messages that can be viewed and responded to at any time. Marco Polo’s purpose, the Bortniks say, is to “help people feel close.”
FaceTime (www.facetime.com). If you have an iPhone, iPad or Apple computer, FaceTime is a great way to have one-on-one or group conversations—face to face. In the FaceTime app, you can invite up to 32 people into one conversation.
Zoom (www.zoom.us). You’ve likely used Zoom on a conference call at work, but you can also create a free account to video-chat with family and friends. Some schools and universities are even using Zoom to host online classes while school is not in session.
Facebook (www.facebook.com). Facebook is good for more than just sharing pictures of your kids and pets. You can also use the site to host watch parties of any public video on Facebook. For example, Jimmy Fallon is hosting “The Tonight Show” from his home—and you can watch video clips from the show on his Facebook page, and invite friends to watch with you.
NextDoor (www.nextdoor.com). Neighbors are using apps like NextDoor to encourage community engagement and support one another during this crisis. The app is even being used to recruit volunteers to check in on elderly or immunocompromised individuals who may not be able to leave their homes. Other neighborhoods are posting ideas to keep kids entertained and distracted from the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, some neighborhoods are organizing “bear hunts” where homes place stuffed teddy bears in windows and families can search for them on walks. Other neighborhoods are encouraging residents to use chalk to write positive messages of hope on their driveways and sidewalks.
No matter which communication method you prefer, it’s important to prioritize staying connected with your loved ones, friends and neighbors. Combating feelings of anxiety and depression and maintaining a positive outlook are easier when you have the support of other people.