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Zoom calls are just the worst, so how can we make sure we’re connecting with friends properly?

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESS BROHIER AT DUVAL AGENCY

WORDS BY JASMINE WALLIS

Some tips on staying connected from a serial URL friend.

Humans are inherently social creatures. From sitting around the fire as cavepeople to WhatsApp group chats, friendships are really important in helping us feel less alone. They can teach us about the world, help us de-stress and can actually prolong our lives.

While 2020 has thrown many diabolical things our way, for many of us, not being able to physically interact with our friends and loved ones has been particularly testing. Even if your friend lives in the same city, your friendship has likely gone from IRL to URL in a matter of weeks. Social distancing and lockdowns mean the way we experience our friendships has changed dramatically.

I was born in the UK and I’ve lived in three different Australian states and three countries in the last few years (and I’m a chatty Gemini), which means that I have friends scattered all across the globe. It’s a blessing when I need a couch to stay on in Spain but it also means I need to put a lot of effort into interacting with friends digitally.

What is the norm for me has suddenly become the norm for the majority of the population, so if you’ve got Zoom fatigue, here are some other ways to connect with friends properly (and don’t worry, there’s no HouseParty suggestions here).

Teach someone a new skill via video 

During the Melbourne lockdowns, my friend and the editor of A-Zine, Christina Karras, has been sharing her isolation cooking on her Instagram page. The recipes look amazing and as someone as averse to cooking as Carrie Bradshaw, it’s inspired me to just start somewhere. Christina is sharing her experience and skill to reach out and connect with friends during an isolating time.

“I shared the first one without a real intention of it being a “series” but I got some gentle encouragement in my DMs which prompted me to keep sharing. Pre-iso I loved going out to restaurants with friends, so this was a virtual way of sharing the experience of food,” Christina tells me over a DM.

Whether it’s teaching someone how to make your favourite pasta or how to sew a mask, we can connect and learn so much online by sharing knowledge with friends.

Join a book club 

Whether you want to start your own with close pals or join one to make new friends, going to a virtual book club is a great way to regularly connect with people. I’ve recently started going to the Fashion Journal book club every fortnight and I find it’s a nice way to not only stay accountable for my book reading (anyone else got a stack the size of a small house on their bedside table?) but to also regularly check in with some friends, discuss what our weeks have been like and talk about a subject that isn’t the news.

Letter writing 

You heard it here first, letter writing is the new emailing. While maybe not as efficient when communicating with colleagues, to stay in touch with friends no matter where they are letter writing is a great way to slow down and be more mindful of what we want to say. You can get crafty and decorate them with stickers, glitter or even write on scented paper à la Elle Woods. Plus, there’s no need to start letters off with generic well-wishes during these “unprecedented times” – let’s just stop that.

Utilise the Close Friends Instagram function 

While I don’t agree with everything that Instagram does (looking at you, Reels) one thing I love is the Close Friends story function. Maybe you don’t want your Aunt, second cousin or old acquaintance from school to hear the inner-most workings of your day, but by having a close friends story you can share inside jokes, memes you wouldn’t want your boss seeing and mundane updates that may not be as aesthetically pleasing as your main feed.

It’s like a secret club where you can post whatever you want and connect with your friends without the pressure of Instagram aesthetics and personal brands. Also, there’s nothing like the feeling of seeing someone else’s green icon and knowing you’ve made it onto their Close Friends list.

Netflix video party 

Sometimes talking is just too much energy. This is where Netflix Party comes in. You can watch movies and TV shows at the same time and on the side of the screen a chat pops up where you can share your thoughts on what you’re bingeing. You could also just text and watch the same thing but something about having a set platform for the hang makes it feel like more of a social plan rather than hopping between your Instagram and Facebook messages.

Stay connected

At the end of the day, friendships can ebb and flow throughout life, especially during tumultuous times. Everyone is being affected by the events of 2020 in one way or another but the most important thing to remember is that even though you might be physically lonely, you’re not alone. Just because a friendship is only played out online doesn’t make it any less meaningful than the friends you might get to see in person more often, like housemates or your lockdown walking buddy.

The main thing to remember is that any friend you talk to whether it be via a DM or a letter is still a connection to the outside world; a reminder that even if you can’t hold their hand, you can send some virtual love and know that a real-life-best-friend-I’ve-missed-you-squeeze is on its way, hopefully soon.

If you need help dealing with feelings of loneliness, depression or grief then don’t hesitate to reach out to those around you or organisations like Beyond Blue.

beyondblue.org.au

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