A closer look

Finding ways to remain connected across the social distance

More stories from Ta'Leah Van Sistine

Life in the city
December 8, 2021

When COVID-19 caused schools and universities to gradually close and transition online for the rest of the academic year, several of my friends and I made plans to do a video chat through Google Hangouts

One of our other friends had recently returned from her study abroad program in Germany and was going to be in quarantine for two weeks, so we decided to each make a different dessert while we did our video chat and then deliver them to her house. 

It was so nice to hang out and joke with my friends — so relaxing to bake something on my own — and so exciting to then surprise our friend with the desserts, while of course remaining distant from each other and our friend.

Many people are finding creative ways to connect with friends and still practice social distancing. 

Tara Lovdahl, a digital marketing specialist living in Milwaukee, Wis., said she and a group of her friends from college recently did a video chat through Zoom

“My partner is a teacher and she has a Zoom account … and we all just set a time and got together, well got together virtually,” Lovdahl said, “and just checked in with everybody.”

Lovdahl said she and her group of friends usually get together in person a couple of times a year around Christmas or over the summer — they also use a group chat to stay in touch.

However, Lovdahl said one friend in the group had the idea to make the most of their time at home and try a video chat instead. 

“It’s really hard to talk to people right now actually about anything that isn’t directly related to the coronavirus, but it still made everybody feel better, I think, to see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices,” Lovdahl said. “It makes you feel as connected as you can right now.”

Allyce Zimmer, a teacher living in Menasha, Wis., said her son and his neighbor friends raced on sidewalks across the street from one another and have also been putting notes in their windows to communicate back and forth. 

“We have twin girls the same age as Ryan next door,” Zimmer said. “Today’s signs from the girls: ‘We miss you Ryan. Love Maggie and Willa.’ ”

There are similar stories throughout the nation of connection and friendship. 

A family from New Kensington, Pa. had planned to take their son to Disney World to celebrate his fifth birthday, but the trip was canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Jennifer Belli, the boy’s mother, still wanted to make his birthday special, so she asked people to stop by their home and wish her son a happy birthday instead.

“… a parade of nearly a dozen cars drove past (their) home, honking their horns loudly for the youngster,” an article written about the family said.

Lovdahl said she has also been playing games with other people through video chats or phone calls to remain connected with them.

“My stepdad is really into chess, and so we were playing chess over the phone and just calling the squares, like ‘pawn to c5’ or something like that,” Lovdahl said. “My partner’s family did a group chat and we played charades over Zoom, which was fun.”

Communication while being physically apart requires motivation, Lovdahl said, but once someone initiates the connection, it becomes easier with time. 

“Basically the biggest thing that we’re missing right now, other than a general feeling of normalcy, is that connection to other people, so you have to push yourself,” Lovdahl said. “It’s easy to sit and be upset, but if you make the effort, it feels so much better to be connected with other people.” 

Van Sistine can be reached at [email protected].