Unless you live under a rock, you’re aware of the new, dangerous coronavirus that’s going around. If you’re community isn’t already affected, it’s about to be. The virus spreads quickly and often among people with no symptoms.
We’ve been advised to practice “social distancing” to protect ourselves and others. So, what is social distancing and what does it mean for you?
First, if you’re a particularly vulnerable person with immunity, health or (in particular) lung or heart issues, you should avoid all public places to the best of your ability. Have someone run errands for you. Use food delivery services. Try to arrange with your workplace to work from home. As much as possible, stay away from direct or close contact with people.
If you’re a healthy person, you also need to put some space between you and other people. Why? Because you could carry the virus without any symptoms and pass it on to people who are more vulnerable than you. The purpose of practicing social distancing is to slow the spread of the virus so our hospitals do not get overwhelmed. We are pretty sure LOTS of people are going to get it. We need to make sure they don’t all get it at the same time.
Social distancing involves several elements. First, avoid large gatherings of people. Don’t go where there are thousands or even hundreds of people in close proximity to each other.
But also, when you are out in public, stay several feet away from people at all times. If someone were to cough or sneeze, you wouldn’t want to be close enough to catch something from them. This also means, no more hugs or handshakes right now. It’s just too risky.
As you can imagine, you should also wash your hands frequently, not touch your face while you’re out and about, and wipe down any surfaces you touch at home or out.
But what about people (like me!) who thrive on random interactions with strangers?
Good Old Yahoo Messenger
Back in my 20’s, I simply adored Yahoo Messenger. I lived in a small, rural town, and I craved interactions with “others.” I was fascinated by anyone who wasn’t like me. I longed for other opinions, viewpoints, and stories. I wanted to hear about what life was like in other places around the world. I wanted to know what people were like in those places.
Yahoo Messenger let me connect with random strangers from around the world. Here are a few of my interactions:
- Met two U.S. military soldiers stationed in Kuwait. They said all they wanted were some homemade cookies, so I had my mother bake them seven pounds of cookies, and I shipped them to Kuwait. We kept up a friendship for a while, and they sent me a stuffed camel and some photos from the desert. I took photos of the camel around my town and sent them the photos to entertain them.
- One night in a chat room someone asked me to turn on my audio. I was mostly comfortable text chatting, but I decided to accept their invitation. It was a couple musicians in Netherlands, and they serenaded me with some music in their studio.
- I met a guy from Wales who I am still friends with to this day. I’ve visited him in Wales and then again several times in London. He’s visited me in Florida.
Yahoo Messenger no longer exists, and the world has changed a lot in the last 20 years, but there are still ways to meet and/or interact with random, interesting people. (In fact, there are more now than ever!)
We know about the most popular “social” apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. But what about emerging apps like Squad? It’s a video-chat and screen sharing app. You can meet random people, share things, join chat rooms and talk to people all over the world. Just like with any app, the more people that join, the better it will be, so get on there! One of the coolest features is that you can share what you’re doing on your phone with others. Say you’re chatting with a new (or old) friend and want to watch a YouTube video, TikTok videos or a movie together? No problem! Get it for your iPhone to enjoy all the features.
Create Your Own Random Experiences
If you use Google Hangouts or Zoom or FreeConferenceCall.com, you can create a meeting, post it on Facebook and invite anyone to pop in to chat with you. I doubt you are personally acquainted with every one of your Facebook friends, so this would be a great way to get to know some of them.
One-to-One Video Chat
If you’re missing your favorite person’s face, you can make a video call using the various apps for that, including Facebook messenger, Instagram, Snapchat or the above-mentioned Squad. If your favorite person is older and/or technologically challenged, ask their caretaker or a close relative to help you out.
Random Acts of Good Cheer
If you want to spread good cheer around your neighborhood without needing to interact with people, try downloading this PDF of tear-off signs. Post them up around town or in your apartment building. You can also create little notes with encouraging messages and stick them in library books or in the pockets of jeans at your local thrift shop. People need positive messages right now, and you can make someone smile with your actions. Below are some notes I made several years ago. Handwritten notes are great, too!
We Can Each do Our Part
Social distancing is the right thing to do to help keep this crisis from overwhelming our hospitals. It will save lives and help our emergency and hospital staff be able to properly deal with everyone who gets sick. And while we’re doing our part to help our community, we can still stay connected in our digital world and have a positive impact on those around us. Stay safe out there and throw some magic around. Now is the time to be unexpected and extra thoughtful.