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  • Anthony Leong

Finding Social Support in a Pandemic

For many of us, the pandemic has been an especially lonely time. Perhaps we’re home alone much of the time, or home with our family a little more often than we’d like. Perhaps we’re back at work but still feel our options for meeting people are constrained. Dating and meeting new friends was hard enough before the pandemic—how should we start now?

The good news is that humans adapt, and people all around us have been hard at work adapting new ways of online community building. Latch on! Or start your own group. Here are some ideas about how to get started.

Are you an expert at something? Share your knowledge!

From plumbing to makeup application to computer building, you can learn how to do just about anything online. Ever thought about sharing your own expertise? Make an instructional video for YouTube or start a podcast. Or just start posting on a forum: Stack Exchange is an excellent website for knowledge sharing. Help English learners by answering questions on the ELL Stack Exchange, or get help learning your own additional language—the Japanese language Stack Exchange answered my question promptly and I even got upvoted for asking it. Reddit also has countless little communities devoted to particular topics—participate in a Subreddit on a topic that is dear to you and become part of a community that shares your interests.

Discord, a voice and messaging app designed for gaming but useful for everyone, is yet another way to discover communities. Just click the Explore Public Servers tab (a little compass icon on the left side of the app) and check out some categories. Perhaps a server for writers, or fans of some particular TV show, or people with social anxiety, would make a good home for you. Just join, introduce yourself, and start chatting. If it feels overwhelming, try clicking around the server’s different chat channels to find a less-used one for a more intimate feel.

Watch a movie or play an online tabletop game with your friends.

Teleparty is a Chrome extension that allows you to sync movies and create a little chatroom for your party. Or sync any online video with friends or family the old fashioned way: by counting down in voice chat and pressing play at the same time. Create your own personal channel in Discord to use as a chatroom for group voice or text. Want to play Risk, Settlers, or Monopoly with that group you used to meet up with in person pre-pandemic? Tabletop Simulator has a lifelike physics engine and thousands of community-made mods that allow you to play just about any tabletop game imaginable with your friends, from card games to Dungeons and Dragons to Jenga.

Among Us and Fall Guys have taken off as quick party games to play with friends or family (Among Us is free for mobile). (pictionary) is another great option—it’s totally free to play and will even take custom word lists for that Harry Potter pictionary session you’ve been dreaming about. Try setting up a regular game night with some people you know.

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