The importance of social connection during physical distancing

As we shift to remote learning, students will for the most part stay home to promote physical distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). It is now more important than ever that we continue to promote social connectedness during this spatial distance. 

As the inevitable shift to remote learning loomed, I appreciated the moments I could interact with students – even a small chat before class. These are all high-quality connections that can boost your mood and keep you smiling on a day when everything else can seem overwhelming. These incidental moments will not be around for a while, which is why it is so important to make time for bigger interactions, not small ones. 

It is so easy to default to our phones to message friends, ‘check-in’ and think we’ve achieved a high-quality connection, but we haven’t. Text messaging is amazing and the preferred form of communication for Gen Zs. It can however be misinterpreted and doesn’t allow for genuine and open conversations. If you notice your daughter in a constant text message stream with someone, suggest they phone them and have a conversation. An article in The Atlantic about the benefits of phone calls over text said: 

“Chatting on the phone provides the bliss of unreviewable, unforwardable, unsearchable speech. If something comes out a little weird, there’s no record of it (unless your conversation partner is secretly recording it, in which case you have deeper problems). If you misunderstand something, there’s no day-long email chain correcting your error. If a conversation has a tense moment, you can’t scroll back up to critique your performance until the heat death of the universe.”

Face-to-face conversations with friends are even better than phone conversations. Since we have started ‘spatially isolating’ I have had FaceTime chats with friends most nights. It is so easy to forget the importance of connecting with our loved ones when we’re all at home. Here are some ways to increase face-to-face conversations with friends while in lockdown, without just staring at each other’s foreheads: 

  1. Line up some conversation starters that go beyond how weird this all is, talk about your favourite shows or albums.
  2. Do a YouTube exercise video with a friend via Skype. Get active and make fun of yourself, like this one. 
  3. Do a ‘bake-off’ with a friend, or just talk while you make dinner.
  4. Talk to a relative on the phone.
  5. Discuss an article or a podcast.
  6. Arrange a recess and lunch date each day, either with your group of friends or maybe someone you don’t usually talk to. It could be a good time to get to know someone new.
  7. Set yourself a grit challenge with a buddy – like learning a song on the ukulele, a dance, or new craft. 

There are also ways to increase social interactions at home as a family, that aren’t just reminding each other to not go outside:

  1. Share the crossword from the newspaper each day, try to solve it and see how you went.  
  2. Play board games at home.
  3. Share a daily goal, then discuss whether you achieved it at the end of the day. Remember there is gratitude to be found in days like this, in being at home, being healthy, having Netflix and being able to crochet.

Ms Daisy Turnbull
Director of Wellbeing

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