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Digital tools you can use to connect with family and friends

Written By: Kim Kham, UT Physicians | Updated: April 16, 2020
Socializing on laptop

Joy Milligan, LCSW
Joy Milligan, LCSW

Social distancing is a new concept we have to embrace. To look at it positively, we are all doing our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19. However, it’s challenging for many people who normally enjoy or depend on person-to-person interaction and communication to feel engaged. “It is very important to stay in touch with friends and family that don’t live in your home,” said Joy C. Milligan, licensed clinical social worker at UT Physicians. “Find ways to call, video chat, or stay connected.”

Fortunately, there are a multitude of platforms, apps, and technology available that give friends, families, and neighbors the ability to hang out together in a virtual space. Many people are now either adopting or increasing their usage of some of these digital tools so they can still socialize with their friends and family. “These interactive tools give people the ability to stay in contact throughout the day with friends and family and that increases the feeling of closeness and happiness,” said Milligan. If you haven’t thought about it, try out some of these ideas to add variety to your current routine. Below are some ways people are using technology to spend time together.

Host a watch party – This is a great alternative to movie night out with friends. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Netflix allow users to watch videos and movies together, simultaneously. Some even allow a chat feature so people can react and laugh at the best moments together. This is a convenient feature to use, especially when experts are recommending that people stay home as often as possible.

Join a neighborhood hub – Neighborhood and community hubs exist on a multitude of social media platforms and apps. It’s a great way for local people and communities to connect with each other. Apps like Nextdoor and MyCoop let you communicate with neighbors. Facebook groups are also a great option for finding public and private groups in your local area. People can utilize these platforms to exchange information on goods and services, and to find help.

Try a video chatting feature – Videoconferencing has been around for a long time for businesses to communicate and host webinars and meetings. It’s becoming more popular now for personal use as well. Instead of dialing or texting, try calling someone through video chatting apps like FaceTime, Skype, Snapchat, Zoom, and Facebook Messenger. Add even more participants to the videoconference and you’ve got quite a crowd.

Chat and play a game together – Whether you play your games on a PC, Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo Switch, chatting with your friends while playing a game is always a fun time. Although each game system has their own exclusive voice and chat feature, there are plenty of alternative platforms like Discord, Ventrilo, and Skype. Give it a shot and find out which games your friends and distant relatives are playing.

Seeing a familiar face or recognizing a friendly voice creates a sense of comfort for everyone involved. Find ways to change your habits and stay connected. “Technology doesn’t have to keep us distanced,” said Milligan. “If used wisely, it can be used to create meaningful connections.” Communication is key. All it takes is a plan and schedule to kick off your next virtual hangout. Add this your weekly routine and start enjoying some quality time together.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.