The coronavirus pandemic has completely transformed our world in the blink of an eye, and one of the biggest changes is in our social habits. Without the ability to see friends and family in person, we’ve had to resort to alternative communication channels in order to stay connected during quarantine. This pandemic is, in essence, transforming the Internet from a primary source of information and entertainment to a lifeline that helps us stay in touch with our loved ones.
If you’re one of the many people today wondering which apps or services to use and how, you’re not alone. At SABEResPODER we’ve put our heads together to provide you with a guide on the most accessible and reliable options to stay connected.
The need for communication in these times
The world is now separated into two groups, those that have been exposed to COVID-19 and those who haven’t. This situation is unique, especially considering our modern society. The planet is at its most populated, most connected and most technologically advanced, and the population is told to stay isolated. This can have dramatic effects, as Neil Greenberg, professor at King's College London, says:
"If you do quarantine or extended isolation badly, that rather than just being distressing, it can have some long-lasting psychological impacts, there’s evidence of depression and some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder." source
The question then becomes: how do we quarantine correctly?
Experts say that staying active both physically and mentally are key factors and with that, to stay as connected as possible with your community. Active and regular participation in group conversations can help build a sense of safety and empathy, which can reduce some of your internal worries. It’s easy to be critical of your situation when in self-isolation, it’s harder to do so when you’re talking to others dealing with similar challenges.
This is especially true for people who are dealing with someone sick or are sick themselves. It’s important to reach out (electronically) and offer support. “people who have been quarantined can be stigmatized. They’re seen as dirty or infected.” said Neil Greenberg. If you’re unsure how to react if someone is dealing with the COVID-19, fall back on kindness and support. We are all in this together.
This is especially true “if at the last minute, someone alters the length of time you’re quarantined and says it has to be longer” shared Neil Greenberg “But once you get into a new sense of what is normal as a community, people adapt and cope.” source
In this article, we’ll share with you some easy and accessible ways to adapt and cope with the quarantine, and in some cases more than that - you’ll have fun!
Staying in touch made easy
There’s a multitude of options when it comes to communicating with friends and family, or work colleagues. We’ve outlined below some that we’ve deemed reliable, accessible and easy to use. Some of these you may already know, some may be new. We suggest that you test a couple of them as there may be lags (due to the increased usage of late), you may need to switch mid conversation.
We’ll begin with apps that are typically used to stay connected with Friends and Family:
- WhatsApp: WhatsApp is the most widely used messenger service (as of March 2020), and that’s in large part due to it’s ease of use and reliability. It’s a great resource for conversations with individuals or very small groups.
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- Skype: Skype has the longest history in this domain and is still a very widely used tool. It offers both free Wi-Fi video calls and the option to call someone’s phone in a foreign country for a minimal per min fee.
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- Google Hangouts: Google Hangouts is newer in the field and is associated to your gmail.com account. This means the person hosting must have a gmail account and for best usage the other participants should log in using their gmail accounts. That said, others can join in on the call remotely by calling into a number. Google Hangouts advantage is that it’s relatively easy to set up and you can have up to 25 video participants, and up to 150 with just audio. It’s a great option for larger groups.
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- Facebook Messenger: Facebook Messenger is known primarily as a messaging tool, however it’s developed its own video call and conferencing that allows you to see up to 6 people at once, and up to 50 on the call in total. If you and your friends/family are big Facebook users this may be a great option.
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Next we’ll look at apps that are usually used in a more professional setting. Some of the most recognizable names are:
Most of them offer similar services, although the pricing can vary depending on the bells and whistles. If you’re considering how to communicate better with your colleagues or team then we’d suggest looking through some of the options above.
Alternative, (Fun!) communication options
If you’re looking for a more interactive alternative to communicating with friends and family, you are not alone. Across a multitude of services, from TV watching parties, to live streamed classes, we’ve seen a huge surge in usage. People are coming up with and using incredibly creative ways to connect. We’ve compiled a few options for you:
- Playing online board games - If you can’t play in person, just find the digital version! There are multi player games like Settlers of Catan or one-on-one options like Chess. You can use built in chat or one of the messenger services listed above to communicate during the game.
- Watch your favorite show/movie - One of the most common past times is watching your favorite show or movie with loved ones and sharing your thoughts as you watch. There’s a couple of technological options that can help with this, such as Netflix Party or the Discord app which lets you share your screen while everyone can chat in the group together.
- Sharing life events - One of the toughest things of being in quarantine can be missing people’s special moments, like birthdays, graduations and so forth. Using Live streaming on services like Facebook Live or Instagram Live allows you to share these in real time with all your friends and family.
Not sure who to reach out to or what to discuss?
After a longer quarantine you may not know who to reach out to or what to discuss. It won’t help your morale much if you go in circles talking about the same topics.
When considering what to discuss, try not to focus entirely on the pandemic. Continue to drive conversations towards the opportunities and options that exist today, rather than focusing on what will be months from now. It’s important to focus on what you can do now. If possible try to find the humor or the bright side. For example, you can ask: "What are some of the unexpected benefits of working from home?" or "Isn't it funny how everyone is suddenly interested in sourdough bread?"
As to who you should communicate with, aside from those that are vulnerable and alone and your immediate circle of friends/family, this is a good opportunity to reach out to those you’ve lost touch with. And therein lies one of the potential benefits of Coronavirus, being at home all the time provides the opportunity to talk to loved ones you always meant to call.
You could also consider some of the alternative ways to communicate we shared above. You could start a digital boardgame with an old friend and share news while you play.
The road ahead
There are and will be hardships around the Coronavirus, but when and if possible we should find ways to take advantage of this situation. Communicate with more folks and find innovative ways to do so. As professor Neil Greenberg said:
“If we’re trying to look for the benefits, it might be that we are learning how to better communicate with our loved ones when we’re locked down. We might end up, when we get back to normal socialization, in a community with a better capacity for links than before.” source
If while you’re staying connected you hear of anyone or you yourself is not feeling well we suggest checking out PODERsalud. It’s a very accessible Telemedicine and discounted medication program offered exclusively to our community members.