Being Together While Staying Apart

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Dear Readers,

A few nights ago, my 20-year-old daughter hosted a movie night with her college friends. There was so much laughter and noise coming from her room, I wondered if the neighbors could hear them.

No, she’s not one of those young people flouting the rules of social distancing. She and her friends were enjoying a virtual movie night, connecting by Netflix and FaceTime from homes in New York, Washington D.C., Florida and California.

ImageThe author’s daughter, Laney Pope, center, videochats with friends.
The author’s daughter, Laney Pope, center, videochats with friends.Credit…Amy Lowndes

At a time when so many of us are isolated in our homes to avoid catching and spreading coronavirus, we need to take a lesson from the highly connected teens and 20-somethings in our lives. Inspired, I set up an account with Zoom (a group video platform I’d never used) and invited my friends to “virtual cocktails” on Saturday night. We spent nearly two hours catching up on our lives in quarantine, offering support and sharing our actual cats (instead of cat photos). It was so refreshing to see their faces, hear their voices and be reminded that even though we are staying apart, we are all in this together.

If you haven’t explored your own virtual connections already, I’d encourage you to try using FaceTime, Zoom, Google hangouts or another platform to see your friends and family this week. Phone calls are great too, but there is something uniquely uplifting about seeing the face of someone you love.

Dr. Asaf Bitton, a global health expert at Harvard Medical School, told me he doesn’t like the phrase “social distancing.”

“When we say social distancing, it’s an isolating concept,” said Dr. Bitton. “It’s really about physical distancing while maintaining social connections. If we’re going to do this for a while, we’re going to have to find new ways to be socially connected to each other.”

For more inspiration on staying connected, read Ali Jaffe’s essay on cooking with her grandmother. Jane Brody also reminds us to take steps to counter the loneliness of social distancing. And to feel more connected to your community, you might want to join a growing movement of people stringing holiday lights to bring much-needed cheer during the coronavirus crisis.

The Well team is here with lots of practical information on coping during the coronavirus crisis, including a new video about cleaning and a guide to caring for someone you love if they become sick from the virus. Anahad O’Connor weighs in on whether vitamins and supplements can help, while Gretchen Reynolds offers hopeful advice for those worried about losing fitness while stuck at home. Finally, check in with the therapist Lori Gottlieb, who tells us it’s OK to grieve for the smaller losses that affect our emotional health, even if it’s just the predictability of getting a haircut or shopping for toilet paper.

Stay connected, and stay well.

— Tara Parker-Pope


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