In case you haven’t been refreshing your Apple News app on the daily, we are in the midst of a global pandemic that hasn’t been seen in over 100 years. One in three Americans at this point are urged by government officials to stay home, while the other two in three Americans are highly, highly, highly recommended to stay at home if at all possible. This is all to enforce the practice of “social distancing.”
We have no idea how long this will last, nor do we have any idea what the effects will be on us socially. We are, by definition, social animals. Our psyches light up way more when we are in the physical presence of other people than they do through texting, social media, or even screen-to-screen FaceTime calls. Technology can mimic the presence of other people, but it will never replace the need for physical presence with others.
Yet we can’t have that right now.
So what are some ways we can continue to develop community with others while self-isolating?
1. Reach Out to Friends You Haven’t Talked To In Awhile.
It’s times like these that drive you to think more about those you care about. Even the ones you haven’t talked to in a very long time.
Are there friends from high school or college you’ve fallen out of touch with because life got too busy? How are they doing? When was the last time you had a conversation with them beyond liking a random social media post that comes up in your newsfeed that makes you think, “Aw yeahhhh, I haven’t talked to them in forever!” Shoot them a text. Check in on them. Maybe even setup a time to call or FaceTime.
2. Utilize Video Calls As Much As Possible.
Did you know FaceTime can do group video chats? I guess a lot of people aren’t aware of that.
There are a plethora of video chat apps out there. Almost too many to count: FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Marco Polo, SnapChat, and so many more that don’t land in the top 10 social apps on the App Store. Utilize these as much as possible. Eat dinner while FaceTiming a friend. Pull out that Portal you got for Christmas. Arrange a watch party with a bunch of friends in a group video chat and try to watch a whole movie on Netflix at the same time. Play Xbox while seeing your friend’s face, not just hear their voice through your headset. Do a Zoom call with your small group. Host a watch party for your online church service. Try to have as much live interaction with people’s faces as you can.
3. Up Family Quality Time.
The opportunities for families to do more together are unprecedented. Have family dinners around the table. Workout with your spouse. Play games with your kids. Answer a random discussion question every night. Practice family devotionals. Be more open to family interruptions while you’re forced to work from home. Whatever it is, focus on cultivating conversation. It’s so easy for each family member to just do their own thing these days. Eat in your room, watch your show, do your homework, play your games, all without tuning in to each other and knowing the what’s-what. Life is too fleeting to skirt around those who are the most dear to us. Don’t jeopardize this moment to really, really practice quality time with your family.
4. Limit Screen Time As Much As Possible.
If you’re like me, then your screen time report went up about 50% from where it normally was from the week before. We will desperately turn to our phones, tablets, and TVs for entertainment to fill our bland, slow-moving days.
Try to refrain. For the sake of your eyes and your (culturally celebrated) phone addiction. If anything, utilize the free time to finally start your scrapbooking hobby you’ve been aching to do for the longest time. Read a physical book for once. Do something tactile with your hands. Find house projects to work on. Find things to do!! But don’t spend more time on the device renown for isolating ourselves before this pandemic came around. If anything, try to use your phone for fueling your conversations versus eradicating your boredom. That’s what the telephone was invented for to begin with.
5. Practice Solitude, Silence, & Stillness.
Solitude, silence, and stillness are known as the “disciplines of penitence.” That just means these are the spiritual disciplines that get us down to the core of how we’re actually feeling, enabling us to face the sin issues and soul troubles that often go unnoticed due to our crowded, noisy, and busy day-to-day lives. You have more time on your hands now. Give yourself time to breathe. Sit in silence. Have the space to actually feel what you need to feel for once. And then present these things to God.
“But if you practice these three disciplines while you’re alone, how could they develop community?”, you may ask. Because they reorient your true self.
You can only be in authentic community to the extent you’re authentic with yourself. If you can’t give yourself the time to really get to the bottom of how you’re doing and who you are, then how can you freely give yourself over to friends? Family? Spouse? Even God? Find a time where you can be by yourself, in a quiet room, without doing anything else besides letting your mind wander and focus on the Lord’s quiet, subtle presence in your midst. See what happens.
You may be surprised.