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Staying Connected: Digital Tools for Social Distancing

Social distancing, or keeping distance from other people to slow the spread of infection, has become the new normal. However, as we physically distance ourselves, we can employ digital tools to stay connected from afar. Here are some of the ways you can use your phone, tablet, and computer to reach out to friends and loved ones.

Wifi Access

For those of us who are used to accessing wifi from public places or workplaces, getting on the internet during social distancing can be a challenge. Luckily, there are some new opinions available to help. Many libraries and other public spaces have boosted their wifi signal to allow for use in the parking lot, safely in your car. Call your local library or visit their website to see if yours offers this service. Also, Comcast, one of the country’s largest internet and cable providers, is offering a variety of new services. Xfinity hot spots, which are Comcast hosted wifi hotspots all over the country, are now free to use and require no login information. Simply select “xfinitywifi” on your device and you’re ready to go! They also are offering price cuts for new customers and 60 days of free service for qualifying low-income customers. To learn more about Comcast’s offerings, visit: https://corporate.comcast.com/covid-19

Facebook Messenger Video Calling 

 Many of us already stay connected via texting, but this can leave us with broken context clues and a lack of emotional connection. Using video calls not only lets you hear the intonation of your loved ones’ voices but you can also benefit from seeing facial clues and body language. This can make you feel more emotionally connected to friends and better simulates in-person interaction. The Facebook messenger app allows users to not only message over wifi but also to video chat. Simply click the camera icon at the top of the chat window to call your friend. This is an easy service to use as many already have this app installed. You can use this app to video call up to 6 people at a time and audio call up to 50. No matter which app you choose, video calling can be a great way to close the social distance gap.

Telehealth

The CDC and many doctor’s offices are recommending people only come to clinics if they are exhibiting serious symptoms to help manage social distancing and the spread of COVID-19. This can make simple medical tasks, like renewing a prescription or asking a medical question, difficult. Luckily, there are many telehealth resources that are available to patients. Telehealth is a word used to describe digital health tools such as patient portals and video chats with nurses and doctors. Many health insurance companies have changed their policies surrounding telehealth to facilitate ease of access. In most cases, telehealth services will now cost the same as in-person health services. To access telehealth services, contact your primary care physician’s office and your health insurance company. You can learn more about telehealth resources here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/telehealth/art-20044878

Snapchat 

Snapchat may have a reputation as just an app for teens, but it can be a useful tool for staying in touch from afar. Snapchat is an app that allows you to send disappearing pictures to people and also to message each other and video chat. The benefit of disappearing pictures and videos is that you can send your love ones small moments from your day without cluttering their or your phone’s storage. You can send silly selfies, videos of your cat, or quick text updates. Just remember to check the location and privacy settings just as you would for any app, and only use it to talk to people you know in real life.  This is a unique way to keep up-to-date with people you are used to seeing on a day-to-day basis.

Netflix Party

With movie theaters across the country shutting down, many of us are getting used to a much smaller silver screen. Though there are many streaming and cable services available, many people have to watch solo to remain socially distanced. Netflix Party is a Chrome extension that allows users to watch the same Netflix show at the same time. When someone pauses, rewinds, or plays the video, everyone’s video will do the same. The extension also offers a chat feature, so you can comment live as you watch your show or movie. This extension allows multiple people to watch the same thing at the same time, so you can invite your whole friend group! To use it, just make sure everyone has Chrome and Netflix Party installed, and a Netflix account. Then, have one person choose the show or movie they want to watch and send the link to the rest. All that’s left to do is party! You can download Netflix party here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/netflix-party/oocalimimngaihdkbihfgmpkcpnmlaoa

Whether you create some time to sit down with friends over a video call or queue up a movie for you and your family far away, there are many unique ways to employ technology and stay connected. Our lives have changed in many ways but we can still access many of the people and services we need to stay happy and healthy. Try using one of these methods in the next week to bridge the gap between social distancing and connecting!