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How to make meaningful social connections while social distancing

My motto during this quarantine and time of encouraging social isolation is inspired by Christopher McCandless’s (Into the Wild) realization after living in social isolation for 114 days: “Happiness is only real when shared.” And as we struggle at home through the anxieties that quarantine life may present us, Anna Draper’s sentiment in Mad Men also strikes a chord with me: “The only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief that you are alone. ” Despite this temporary period of “social isolation” we are all going through, we are actually experiencing an unprecedented reign of global social solidarity and togetherness!

I’m often reminded that loneliness kills. Compassion saves lives. So please remember, no matter what you’re going through right now, you are very far from being alone. We can use this opportunity to check in on one another, build new relationships, and strengthen existing ones in spite of physical social distancing.

I am happy and relieved that most people I know are so far healthy, in some sort of company and safe with access to food and shelter (see below this article some ways to help those who aren’t). While we are together alone, here is a list of “Big Talk” questions we can ask our quarantine buddies at home/while on a walk – or friends, family, lovers, classmates, and co-workers over video calls (perhaps people we haven’t caught up with, in a while) to help us remain hopeful, connected, reflective, and strong:  

  • What are you looking forward to?
  • What have you started but never finished, and why?
  • How can you care for others right now? Who in this world do you love most and what are you doing about it?
  • What curiosities can you explore from the comfort and safety of your home? What’s something you have always wanted to try that now would be a good time to try? 
  • What gives you hope?
  • What does this world need more of? How can you help?
  • Where do you find peace?
  • What little things in life do you take the time to stop and appreciate?
  • What have you witnessed that has strengthened your faith in humanity?
  • What is your greatest strength? 
  • What do you fight for?

So far the only known model to prevent the spread of Corona is serious social distancing. But humans are meant to be social! So here are ideas that have worked for me that might work for you to help you continue to deepen and diversify your relationships – to become more socially involved while isolated:

  • Writing/illustrating hand-written cards and letters to loved ones and friends far away (or even in your own city since you can’t see them in person)
  • Hosting virtual happy hours, brunches with your best friend group or coworkers
  • Calling an old mentor or teacher and soaking in life wisdom!
  • Talking and engaging with local people and workers you do come into contact with; I asked my cashier at Chick-fil-A what’s keeping her going, and she broke out into a big smile and showed me her best dance moves – the highlight of my day! I struck up a conversation with my mail woman and we talked about our families. I bonded with my Uber driver over music and he said our conversation inspired him to take up the piano. 
  • Sometimes, cuddling next to your quarantine circle – I love sitting in bed and watching comedy / funny memes with my sister and laughing our ears off.
  • Cooking new meals with friends and family (the other night we made home-made Chinese dumplings, and I see my friends post the yummiest meals on social media)
  • Painting and making art – My friends in Australia and I have a FB group where we share a new watercolor piece each week
  • Taking lots of walks! – Six feet apart or with your quarantine buddies or alone to clear your head or call a faraway friend/family member
  • Singing and playing piano/guitar – My dad and I sang Karaoke songs from the ‘60s… and early 2000’s the other night and had a blast!

I’ve found that taking part in these activities has shown me that we don’t need a lot of material things when it comes down to it – We just need each other!

Regardless of race, socioeconomic status, workplace hierarchy, geography, religion – we are all going through this unprecedented time together, experiencing similar life changes, and likely sharing common feelings. We have the same fears, concerns, coping mechanisms, and joys. Perhaps the kindest thing we can do right now is radiate hope, humor, inspiration, and compassion towards each other, and continue to strengthen our social solidarity and knowledge so that we can prepare for whatever comes next!

Some Big Talk related things I’m working on during this time:

  1. Sign up for a virtual Big Talk event hosted by the Riveter on Wednesday the 15th at 3 PM PST.
  2. The Big Talk Question Card Game is 20% off on Amazon (It’s great to play at home during quarantine or over Facetime or co-worker coffee chats).
  3. I’d love to continue to hear your stories shared through the Big Talk community on FB or @makebigtalk on Instagram

***For those who are less fortunate and more preoccupied with survival, there are programs to help people feed their children and save small businesses. If you are financially secure, consider donating to your local food bank / feedingamerica, buying gift cards to your favorite small businesses, or donating blood (there is a critical need right now), among other ideas. 

Learn how to skip small talk at your workplace.
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