So we’re in lockdown, and trying to keep ourselves sane in the face of social isolation, a lot of screen time, some have kids in the house 24/7, and we’re all experiencing the impact of the loss of our daily routines. We all want to ward off feelings of loneliness, and we’re told it’s important to look after our mental wellbeing through the coronavirus crisis.
The problem is, many of the options available to us don’t fully scratch our social itch. Nothing quite compares to spending quality time with people, face-to-face — or to pursuing our hobbies and interests, out and about in the world. Netflix, phone calls, and live streamed events such as pub quizzes or plays don’t quite cut the mustard when it comes to feeling significantly less lonely.
Why? Well, apart from the obvious comparisons between real life and virtual experiences, science tells us that what has the biggest impact on feelings of loneliness are social interactions that build and maintain meaningful connections with others (Blieszner, 2019). This goes beyond just hearing someone’s voice, exchanging some light chit chat, or watching TV together. It’s the unique qualities of a bonding experience that help us feel connected on a deeper, more satisfyingly human level. Things like experiencing something new together, collaborating, having more open conversations about the things that matter, asking for support, and having fun together.
It’s easy to see how, with the temptation of TV and smartphones, we might unintentionally be failing to help ourselves socially during this strange period. So we’ve compiled a rundown of our top 5 social pitfalls to avoid during the lockdown — enjoy!
Pitfall #5: Quantity Over Quality
If you’re like me, when the lockdown hit and you were facing the prospect of long expanses of time without seeing anyone, you might have panicked. And arranged phone or video calls with EVERYONE you know. And then some other people that you had forgotten about called you too.
After hours with a phone or headphones welded to my ear, I found myself wishing to be left alone, whilst still feeling disappointed with the social contact I actually just spent hours investing in.
The key here is not to go for more contact, but instead to try to emulate the bonding experiences you most enjoy under normal circumstances, but within the constraints of the lockdown. Love going to your weekly pub quiz with your friends? Set up a weekly slot and re-create the quiz, with lots of opportunity to chat and laugh together, online or over the phone. Missing your extended family Sunday lunch? Consider having a chat over the same Sunday papers instead. Just remember; be selective — and creative.
Pitfall #4: Technical Problems
There’s nothing quite like running out of battery or a frustratingly pixelated video feed to scupper quality conversation. This is a brilliant time to try new apps for keeping in touch, but it is worth investing a little time in preparing and trying out different tools to make sure it all goes as smoothly as possible when you do have someone else on the other end of the line.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and adapt — if your internet connection is slow, go for a regular phone call or conference call, or a turn-based activity like online chess or scrabble. If you figure out that your smartphone uses energy faster on video call than the rate at which it charges, then top it up in advance and space out your scheduled calls — or switch between that and another device if you have a tablet or computer.
Pitfall #3: Being A Passive Audience
There are so many fantastic entertainment options springing up — pub quizzes, concerts, exercise classes, and so on. If you’re like me, you might have got quite excited about the prospect of one or more of these, and persuaded people you know to give it a go.
Possibly too excited.
The problem is that most of these are currently broadcasts — live streams of activities that aren’t interactive, or if they are, require you and your friends to do the legwork and figure out how to actually enjoy them together from your own homes. This can lead to disappointment — and quite a lot of effort needed to actually make them enjoyable.
Look out for opportunities to easily gather a group of friends or family to join in with something truly interactive, so that it has more of the fun of a real life social experience. All of our experiences at More Human combine one or more interactive social elements, including the chance to get involved digitally, chat throughout (remotely), and even capture photos of you as a group having fun!
Pitfall #2: Poor Conversation Etiquette
It’s easy to forget how much more we have to go on when we’re speaking to one another in person. Body language and quiet expressive sounds provide us with excellent hints that someone else wants to speak, is getting bored, or wants to sneak off to make a cuppa.
When speaking on the phone — and even on video calls — these things are much harder to detect, and it’s easy to forget that someone else might not be as engaged in what you’re saying as you are. Adding in more frequent and longer pauses, and asking people whether they would like a break, are two very simple but easily forgotten fixes that work wonders.
Pitfall #1: Using Social Time To Moan
We all like a moan from time to time. And not only is talking about coronavirus unavoidable, and even therapeutic, given the impact it’s having on our lives — it’s also an incredibly effective conversation starter if there’s an awkward silence or you’re chatting to new people.
I don’t have any data, but I’m pretty convinced that coronavirus has overtaken the weather as the UK’s favourite conversation opener. Which makes a change, at least.
The problem comes when this is the majority of what you talk to people about on any given day.
There’s so much bad news out there, we’re living with incredibly high levels of uncertainty and change, and yes there are lots of things to worry about and be sad about.
But now more than ever we also need to have fun together, laugh together, and have new enjoyable experiences from time-to-time to build our resilience to get through it all. Think of it as emotional re-balancing.
So throw a few ideas around with a friend, or have a think. What makes you laugh? When was the last time you had a real hoot, and what were you doing? How could you adapt this or re-create it for yourself and people you know virtually? Is there something new you could try, or an existing community you could join to give something a go with new people?