On Trend banner over young girls video chat to celebrate their birthdays

In today’s world, being physically far from others doesn’t mean you can’t stay close. Whether your family lives across the state, your college friends live in cities all around the country, or your team at work is made up of people from across the globe, technology allows us to stay connected and feel like we’re in the same room — even if we’re just on screen.

Here are a few ways you can make the most of today’s digital capabilities and be social with everyone from your coworkers to classmates, as well as friends and family near and far.

Connect with coworkers on-screen.

When it comes to working remotely, it’s tough to underscore the importance of face-to-face time. So, while it may feel easier to pick up the phone to talk to coworkers or participate in a meeting, it’s best to add the video element when you can. Not only does being able to see people encourage participation (you can’t zone out or text a friend while on screen), it can generally increase the quality of a conversation. That’s because we communicate with our faces and body language — not just words. Plus, phone calls with multiple people can get confusing or even a little awkward when voices sound the same or people speak over each other.

Worried about looking professional during a video conference from home? You can download tons of free backgrounds to use on the video conferencing app Zoom. That way, nobody can tell if you are in your bedroom or if your kid’s toys are scattered all around you. And while you might not need to wear the same thing as you do to the office, you’ll definitely want to change out of your PJs (at least on the top).

Keep in mind, you don’t have to use Zoom (or any other video conference app) solely for meetings. Informal office chats are a nice way to catch up and hang out with your coworkers. Consider a morning coffee chat, lunchtime hang, or the occasional afternoon happy hour to stay in touch.

Game Night Fun

Apps like FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Houseparty, and Zoom have all become household essentials for talking with friends and family. But you don’t need to feel limited to just chit-chatting — add some fun and competition to the mix by taking game night online. You can keep it old-fashioned with cards or boardgames or try out virtual games like Heads Up and Quick Draw that are built directly into Houseparty.

Another fun way to get creative (and a little bit silly) on group video calls is to try out a presentation party. What’s that, you might be asking? With a presentation party, each participant creates a short presentation (just a few minutes) on any topic — the more random or niche, the better. Each person gives their presentation (slideshow optional) to the group, and people can vote for their favorites. Feel free to make the rules your own, because no matter how you structure it, it’s great way to share interests, have a good laugh, and possibly learn something new.

Some other ways to get creative while video chatting with friends and family are:

  • Prop up your phones or laptops in the kitchen and cook a recipe together with someone. You can compare techniques while you cook and then enjoy your meal with each other virtually.
  • Set up video playdates for your kids — it will keep them busy, and they’ll be happy to see their friends.
  • Try out a virtual book club. You can read a book as a group or discuss your old favorites to avoid having to purchase new books now. Or try the same set-up for podcasts.
  • Use a browser extension like Netflix Party to watch TV or movies with others from afar. You can sync your streaming and share comments throughout with a live chat feature.

Virtual Visits with Grandma and Grandpa

Growing up surrounded by devices, kids these days are no doubt a tech savvy bunch. With video calling apps like FaceTime or Facebook Messenger, parents can hook their kids up with a virtual visit from Grandma and Grandpa, aunts and uncles, or other friends and family. It’s a great way to give parents a much-needed break and kids some fun face time with far-away family.

But despite tech being second nature, kids can get bored of the screen. To keep them having fun while on the line, try out apps like Together or Caribu. These subscription-based video-calling apps include things like coloring activities, games like chess and Connect 4, and children’s books for a little story time.

Go old school.

Connecting over video is great, but that doesn’t mean reaching out to others via text or phone calls isn’t meaningful as well. Especially for those who maybe be extra lonely (like those living in nursing homes), receiving a “Hello” or “How are you?” text or call can mean the world. Take advantage to check on a family member, dial up a loved one, or spark up a chat with an old friend — it’s likely you’ll both feel better for it.

Another simple way to spark a connection without having to go on-camera? Challenge your friends or family members to a mobile game like Words with Friends, Mario Kart Tour, or Kahoot! Plus, online app stores are full of classic multiplayer board games, like Monopoly, Clue, and The Game of Life. Digital games are a fun way to foster a little competition and stay in touch on your own time.

Gain exclusive access.

Livestreaming on social media has become incredibly popular, from Instagram Live to TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook. On any given evening, you can be sure to find an artist giving a concert, a comedian doing standup, an entrepreneur hosting a Q&A, or a chef giving cooking tips straight from their homes. While it may not be a typical way to socialize, it’s fun to connect with people you normally don’t have up close and personal access to.

Stay in the know.

Technology helps us stay connected as a global community.  Whether you prefer reading the news or watching videos, the internet and social media allows us to stay on top of what’s going on both locally and all over the world. By being up to date with the happenings not just here, but everywhere, you can feel better connected to others all over.

If your friends move away and you miss Friday night hang outs, or you want to remake a traditional Sunday dinner with family, but they live cross country, technology can help you make the best of a little distance. So, don’t be shy: Send that text, make the phone call, or host a Zoom party!

How do you stay connected these days? Share your favorite ways to be social in the comments!