I Suck at Socializing from Quarantine: A Plea to Change
05.01.20

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I am starved for social interaction, but FaceTiming my mom is not working anymore. I am craving something that is less automatic–the quarantine equivalent of a coffee date or dinner plan with an acquaintance who will keep me on my toes. What I seem to be getting at, is that I want to talk to people who don’t orbit inside my immediate communication circle.

But I’ll be the first to admit that I’m possibly the greatest perpetrator of that condition where once you are out of sight, you are also out of mind. I don’t think I realized the extent to which I relied on living in SoHo and regularly running into people, striking up a conversation, and then making plans (either with them or someone I have been reminded to call because of them). Such an opportunity no longer exists, so I have to figure out how to socially engage until the gates re-open.

Some ideas:

A double date on one of those apps—Houseparty or Zoom or FaceTime or whatever.

I had such a nice time at my family Passover seder, which was conducted on Houseparty. I set the table, put out crystal glasses, and wore a vest. I recall that evening as a highlight of quarantine. But who now to double date with? Face-on-face communication is just awkward enough that if you’re not completely comfortable with the person you’re talking to, you spend the majority of the conversation anticipating moments of silence to fill, grasping for colloquial straws. Just me?

A group cookout (I mean cook-in?) on Zoom

This is a nice idea in theory. Pre-plan a meal to have with a group of your friends! Cook it together while drinking a libation! Then eat and continue to drink once you’re done! But now I’m thinking this might actually be more suitable for a one-on-one hang because the art that gets lost in a Zoom hang is that of the side conversation. And those, as we know, are the most meaningful of all.

Game night

Heads up, Monopoly, cards, a puzzle. You name it.

But the core issue remains—I suck at keeping in touch with people. It is possibly the worst of my bad qualities, particularly because I love being with people. The feeling runs counter to the behavior, doesn’t it? Anyway, I’m trying to combat the condition, mostly by spamming everyone I follow on Instagram with private messages, but last week, during my Office Hour on Thoughtline (the latter being our text service, the former being the dedicated hour we spend responding to messages in real-time), I asked subscribers what they’re doing to keep in touch. Among the responses (303 among them!), there were dominant themes, I’ve parsed them below:

Ways to connect

The most popular apps to use with your people, beyond the obvious text, call, Houseparty, Zoom, FaceTime, or Hangouts seem to be Marco Polo and apparently, this one called Club Penguin, which is big among Gen last-letter-of-the-alphabet.

The most analog way to connect, and this was a big theme on Thoughtline, is by sending letters to people. It must be something about the meditative experience of talking about what you’re doing, or what you see, or what you feel depending on your flavor of connection. I might accomplish this with the weekly dispatches, but those are digital. I think I’ll try the letter thing, if only because you reap the double-whammy-benefit of also needing to buy stamps, which supports the almost-defunct USPS.

Another common idea: scheduling physical activity with neighbors, but doing it responsibly. One texter told me she and her friend who lives two blocks away schedule their stress walks for the same time, then when they take them, maintain 10 feet to be safe. V responsible.

Things to do once you’re connected

Chores, but together—laundry, folding, dish-washing, pantry organizing—whatever shit you have to do that you’d usually consider menial, but which you can turn into a social occasion because isn’t everything menial now? I hope my optimism isn’t waning.

An online wine tasting. One texter said she chose three wines that are common brands and easily accessible, then she and her friends used the same Master Sommelier deductive tasting sheet they found online (here is one) and went through the motions. I bet you can apply the basic principle of this idea to anything. Bingo? Personality quizzing? You do you.
Become an accountability buddy. Ask for a hype man and become one yourself! When either of you accomplishes a task, tell your accountability buddy you’ve done it, then congratulate or encourage them. According to the texter (I really wish I had kept a tab of their fucking names), it’s helping both she and her friend stay motivated.

But if you, like me, still need to figure out who to reach out to, here’s how to combat out of sight and mindedness

Scroll through your camera roll, land somewhere random, and if no one is in the picture with you, swipe until you get to one with another person in it. Then text them the picture and pick up a conversation. I have tried this a few times in the last couple of days and it has been a fab-u way to say hi and recall memories of the newfangled B.C. era.

My favorite suggestion was from someone who told me that she’s been posting vaguely concerning Stories to her close friends list on Instagram and then chatting with those who reply. I confirmed she was kidding and then dutifully asked if she’d add me to the list.

It got me thinking that Instagram—a prison or a fortress—has the unique ability to fortify all of our asses right now, so another thing I have been doing is aggressively responding to the Instagram stories that populate the top of my feed and then if the opportunity presents, taking the conversation off-platform. Everything I have posted to my feed, meanwhile, has effectively been a call for interaction so if you’re feeling like: What the fuck is this person posting?

Now you know, I’m posting a cry for conversation.

Do I sound desperate?

Make no mistake.

I am.

But at least I’m less alone! Want to hang?

Graphics by Lorenza Centi.

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