COVID-19: Staying Apart, Getting Together

Posted by on Apr 1, 2020

You’re being good. You’re following the Governor’s Executive Order to stay home and save lives. You have checked out some amazing virtual tours and resources, and now all that is missing is . . . someone with whom to talk it over.

Until we can do this in person again . . .

Good news: video chatting is easier than ever before. Thanks in large part to the improvements in phone cameras, and a couple of new video chat applications, you can be face-to-face with a friend in no time.

This article walks you through the pros and cons of Zoom versus Google Hangouts. Note that, if you already have a Gmail account, or use Google Calendar, then you already have a Google account. You can use that same log-in information to access Hangouts. You can go here to learn more about how to get started with Google Hangouts. For some more advanced tips related to Google Hangouts, check out this article.

Some tips for video chatting:

  • Be aware of your background. Maybe step away from that dirty laundry pile, or be sure to put pants on if you are walking anywhere near to a mirror. (We get it, it’s been a long few weeks.)
  • It’s okay to take a pause. You can usually mute yourself, pause your video feed, let them know you’ll be right back, or just take a break and set a time to call later, if it’s a two-person chat. You are allowed to meet your needs! And along those lines . . .
  • Don’t take the phone with you into the bathroom. Just don’t. We’ve seen some unfortunate instances online of people forgetting that there are humans on the other end of that chat. Don’t be one of them! Phones are so common in our everyday lives, it can be easy to forget that they may be sharing video or audio information about us.
  • Take it slow. Our internet connections may be running slow currently, due to heavy use. This can mean frozen video feeds, and garbled speech. Make it easier for your friends to follow what

    . . . we need to find other ways to get together!

    you’re saying by pausing between sentences, and paying attention to when other people might be responding. It can be hard to take turns and find the rhythm of the conversation. Try to be patient, we all feel awkward at first.

  • Try not to be too distracted by how you look. That little box with your image in it can draw your eyes like a magnet. But if you spend your whole call worrying about how your hair looks, or fretting about your double-chin, you will miss the point of your call–to connect with a friend. It is very normal and very human to be surprised and fascinated by your own reflection. Just try to keep your focus on the human on the other end of the line.
  • Remember that it is very easy to capture screen shots. The intimate nature of a video chat can trick us into forgetting that this is a digital medium. Unlike in-person interactions, people can use technology to capture images or even video, of what you share. Adults get to make their own choices about what is right for them. But be cautious about sharing your personal information, financial information, or parts of your body that you would not want shared more broadly.

Another option for non-visual connection is chatting. Chatting is communicating with text, images, gifs, and other visual means through an app (note that both you and your chat partner will need to establish accounts on the same app). There are many (many!) apps for this, as you probably know. If you have Facebook, and you’re missing a group setting, you could create your own private group, and invite friends to converse in a more low-key manner. SnapChat and Facebook’s Messenger Kids both have some pretty fun filters and stickers to play with when you want to be silly.

Do you have tips on how to connect with your friends? Share them in the comments, on this blog or on our Facebook page!

Photos courtesy of the Disabled And Here project page.