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Op-ed: Building community amid crisis

Community, under normal circumstances, is crucial for individuals and society. In the middle of a crisis, it becomes even more critical. With so many of us sheltering-in-place, community is difficult to accomplish. Working from home or even being let go from a job, moving to a completely online classroom environment for perhaps the first time, being completely isolated from our friends and families all of these can be pretty detrimental to our overall well-being. While in-person contact is severely limited during this pandemic, community and camadrie are still possible. Here are five simple ways you can stay connected.
1. Utilize Video Chat

While I’ll be the first to tell you that social media is no real replacement for in-person, physical interaction, it is a wonderful substitute when no other option presents itself. Apps such as Marco Polo, Facebook Messenger, and Google Hangouts allow “face-to-face” conversations. Sometimes just seeing someone else’s smile is enough to make your day a little better.

2. Host a Watch Party

Why allow social distancing stop you from enjoying a good TV show or movie with your friends? Some streaming platforms, like Netflix and Watch2gether, allow you to enjoy movies or shows together. Some require downloading an extension into your web browser, and some require a subscription. Do a little digging and find the platform that suits the needs of you and your friends!

3. Create a Virtual Book Club

By taking advantage of some of the apps mentioned earlier, you can utilize them for more “formal” discussions. Find a book that everyone has or can access online. Many libraries are offering wider array of ebooks during the crisis. Once you’ve chosen a title, set up a weekly “check-in” to talk about what you’ve read so far.

4. Have a Dinner Party

At first glance, this may seem a little odd. Most of us go out of our way to put our best face forward when utilizing social media. Why stuff your face in front of a camera? However, some of the best memories happen over a meal. You probably wouldn’t object to getting together for pizza or burgers with friends in person. Having a meal together, even if the “together” is virtual, will help bring a little bit of “normalcy” to your day!

5. Have a Game Night

This one might seem tricky, but there’s plenty of ways to play a game together that doesn’t require everyone having a board in front of them. While platforms such as roll20 are designed primarily for tabletop roleplaying games, with a little imagination they could be used for boardgaming as well. If all else fails, set up your board in front of your webcam, and move the pieces for your other players.

I can’t stress enough the importance of community right now. When my Introduction to English Studies class went from a very interactive classroom setting to completely online due to the changes made by TWU in response to the Covid-19 crisis, my classmates and I began using GroupMe and Marco Polo to stay in touch. Not every conversation we have is school related. We share our pets with each other, our favorite reading locations. Sometimes, we just hop on to say hello and check in with each other. Other times, we use these apps to talk about how we are struggling through this trying time. We’re met by encouragement, sympathy, and grace.

It’s been invaluable. More than anything, those who actively participate have felt a camaraderie with one another, a connection during a time when that’s getting increasingly difficult. We are a community. You can be, too. I know we are all busy winding up the semester, finishing projects, studying for finals, but take some time to reach out and connect with others. I promise it’s not time you’ll feel you wasted. 

Featured image courtesy of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

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