four photos of individuals in video chat boxes
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Health

57 Things to Do Remotely With Friends in Quarantine Beyond 'Catching Up'

Time to get creative with all those Zoom calls.
March 28, 2020, 1:00pm
howtostayin
How to Stay In is a series about redefining "normal" life in order to take care of ourselves and one another during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It looks like social distancing isn’t going away any time soon. While this is good for our physical health and strained healthcare system, it’s not great for folks who are desperate for their daily dose of social connections, or anyone who is feeling really lonely during quarantine. To get through this, we’re going to have to get creative.

With that in mind, we put together a mega list of ways to connect right now—to keep boredom and isolation at bay, and to bring levity and exuberance to an incredibly dark time. Unless otherwise specified, all the activities on this list are intended to be done virtually via your video call software of choice—FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Slack, Skype, Signal, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc. (If you’re looking for ways to see friends from 6 feet apart, give 21 Non-Boring (And Safe) Ways to See Friends in Person This Summer a read.)

By the way, if any of these hangouts go well, consider making them recurring events. Not only is it logistically easier, but it’s also a great way to combat loneliness and general COVID despair. When you’re feeling lonely and sad, having social engagements to look forward to helps a lot, and interacting with people regularly is a really good way to make friends (or deepen existing relationships).

  • Set an alarm to remind you to do a daily vibe check in your group chats. (Bonus points if everyone shares a photo.)
  • Get creative with your regular friend group check-ins. The Life team at VICE has been doing a daily laugh check (where everyone shares what’s funny to them right now) and a roommate check (everyone just shares what’s new with their roommates, whether it’s good or bad).
  • Invite your friend group to start creating lo-fi vlogs for each other. (Think: skincare routine, “get ready with me,” house tour, etc.)
  • Do a morning WFHOOTD (work from home outfit of the day) photo call-out in your group chat.
  • Try Marco Polo, a surprisingly charming asynchronous video chat app that is far better than Facebook or Instagram for video DMs. (It’s a particularly good one for families!)
  • Use Netflixparty to watch movies or shows together.
  • Chat and play simple party games remotely using Houseparty.
  • Try Instagram’s new ‘co-watching’ feature or try Squad, an app that lets you screenshare whatever is on your phone.
  • Make a TikTok account if you haven’t already (you can keep it private!), and ask your friends to do so as well—it’s a really fun and easy way to make and share weird shit.
  • Get your friend group to start sending weekly email “newsletters” to each other. (Keep it simple/doable with a format like “Things I read, watched, listened to, ate, laughed about, photographed, and loved” and bulleted lists.)
  • Expand your network in some way; find a Facebook group or Reddit community for people in your profession, from your hometown, who share a common interest of yours, etc.
  • Video chat with a friend while you both meal prep for the week ahead.
  • Join choreographer Ryan Heffington’s Instagram Live dance parties.
  • Or host your own dance party with friends by video chat.
  • Challenge a friend or family member to a dance contest; record a video of yourself doing a dance, then send it to them to replicate and send video back to you.
  • Or just learn the same TikTok dances and show them off to each other.
  • Send dumb Cameos from your favorite microlebrities to each other; the custom videos run as low as $25, and are nice for a special occasion (think: sending a birthday message from their favorite reality show castmember).
  • Take inspiration from this woman and create ridiculous mini set pieces for your video calls or to otherwise entertain your friends.
  • Start a chill group blog that everyone can contribute to, à la Indoor Voices.
  • Get it on an existing virtual trivia league (like this one or this one).
  • Or host your own trivia night for like-minded nerdy pals.
  • Organize a remote game night; this spreadsheet has a bunch of good games for multiple players.
  • Put together outfits in Photoshop for hypothetical future social scenarios and show them off to each other. It's like digital paper dolls.
  • Arrange a knitting circle.
  • Do a weekly DIY challenge with other creative folks where you choose a theme and then make a project or craft using only the supplies you have on hand.
  • Or do an art challenge where everyone creates a drawing or painting inspired by the same topic and then shows it off. (The topic can be silly and the art definitely does not need to be good.)
  • Start a recipe club where everyone utilizes the same ingredient (probably beans) or cooks the same recipe and then shares photos and/or eats together.
  • Set up a remote lunch hangout with coworkers, aka eat your WFH lunch together and chat like you would have in the office.
  • Host a long-distance dinner party; each participant should cook their fanciest quarantine meal, set the table (with a laptop across from their spot), dress up, light candles, pour a glass of wine, etc.
  • Host a drink, talk, and learn party, where everyone comes with a three minute PowerPoint presentation about a random topic.
  • Make theme days a part of your group chat/hangouts. Now is a great time to start participating in Wig Wednesdays.
  • Start a good old-fashioned book club.
  • Or do an article club, podcast club, or documentary club.
  • Get everyone in the group chat to create Memojis—which are, frankly, hilariously terrible—of each other.
  • “Tour” a museum (like MoMa, Tate Britain, or the Musée d’Orsay) together from home while sharing your screen.
  • Invite folks to join you in a daily photo challenge for the next two weeks. (There are tons of super simple prompts–like this—on Pinterest.)
  • FaceTime with a friend while you do an at-home yoga or workout session together.
  • Start “planning” the big group trip you’ve been meaning to take for years. (Obviously this can’t be pegged to a date, but you can still make a doc of specific places you want to go and stay, as well as general times of year you can agree upon.)
  • Prepare lip syncs of iconic scenes in the style of Bowen Yang for each other.
  • Plan an activity/hangout inspired by your favorite reality competition shows (think: Bake-Off, Project Runway, Chopped).
  • Utilize software like iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive to share photos and videos within a friend group. This might look like a photo stream for pets, breakfast, outfits, etc. where people can easily view and comment, or creating a photo album of you and your friends, or uploading photos of a time in your life they weren’t a part of—so they can see your sibling’s new baby or your best college or childhood pics.
  • Set up a standing 20 minute coffee break with a friend every morning at 11 or every afternoon at 3. (Time-boxing will keep it from feeling overwhelming or cutting into your workday.)
  • Give any of the above hangouts a theme and invite everyone to come in dressed and/or with props. (Some ideas: Margaritaville, black tie, YouTube makeup, Animal Crossing.)
  • Attend Digital Drag Fest events “together.”
  • Or create your own quarantine drag fest and invite everyone to go all out with whatever they have at home.
  • Do Self-Care Sundays with a close friend—put on a mask and talk while you soak in the tub.
  • Write real physical letters to folks who just aren’t into texting. (FYI, even if you had an outside risk of having been exposed to COVID-19, it only survives for 24 hours on porous surfaces like paper; if the recipient is really worried, they can “quarantine” the letter for 24 hours after the mail carrier would have touched it before opening.)
  • Or get a pen pal. (Check out Worldwide Snail Mail Pen Pals, PenPal World, Letters to Elders, and Write a Prisoner to find someone to connect with.)
  • Set aside time each day to make a couple 20-minute phone calls.
  • And block out an hour each week for sending/responding to emails with friends.
  • Start sending people voice memos, a wildly underrated communication tool.
  • Play video games together while talking on the phone.
  • If staying in touch with family is feeling overwhelming, start sending a weekly email—sort of like those end-of-year Christmas card letters—instead.
  • Or “assign” yourself one thing (your dinner, something you read, a funny meme, etc.) that you’ll share with your parents and siblings each day as a low-level check-in.
  • Send people whatever postcards or greeting cards you have lying around. (It doesn’t matter if they are seasonally inappropriate!!!)
  • And if you’re feeling sentimental, do the 36 questions that lead to love with someone you care about.

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Rachel Miller is the author of The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your People, coming May 2020. Follow her on Twitter.