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Staying connected during the pandemic can be technologically easy — with texting, phone calls, and group video chats available at any time — while at the same time exhausting and isolating. Tech burnout is real, and if you use Zoom and Slack all day at your job, it makes sense that penciling in an evening FaceTime could feel like more work.
The feeling doubles when you A.) feel like there’s nothing new to say because life is pretty much the same on a day-to-day basis; B.) dread having to talk to everyone in a Zoom party versus one person in a corner like you would at an in-person gathering or C.) wish you could meet new people around your interests.
Luckily, there are still ways to branch out virtually that don’t involve stiff icebreaker questions or small talk. Whether you want to find a new way to spend time with old friends or connect with new ones, there are seemingly endless online classes, workshops, apps, books, and remote resources for hanging out based on your interests.
From virtual workouts and book clubs to comedy classes and cooking workshops, here are 8 ways to connect with other people in a remote world:
Play a timeless game
If you initially loved games like Among Us or “Animal Crossing” but played so much Quiplash at the beginning of quarantine that you’re kind of sick of it, you might just need something a bit more challenging.
Chess has enjoyed a recent uptick in popularity even before “The Queen’s Gambit,” and is perfect for playing with any live-in roommates or online with total strangers. On top of having tons of mental and emotional health benefits, it’s also a game you could never get too good at — making it one you’re less likely to get tired of.
Start your own book club
Book clubs are one of the easiest IRL activities to convert to Zoom because there’s a concrete topic of interest to discuss. If you want to start one but, well, don’t know where to start, a service like Book of the Month can help you narrow down which books to choose from (you get a choice between five every month).
If you’re looking to join a virtual book club and meet new people, Meetup (which normally hosts in-person hangouts) might be a good way to participate remotely and meet people nearby you can later hang out with when the pandemic is over.
Flex your funny side
A great way to meet new people (or get to know your friends better) is doing comedy together because it calls for vulnerability and openness. Iconic sketch and improv training centers like UCB and The Second City offer tons of online workshops, and you don’t have to live in a major city like New York, LA, or Chicago to participate.
With so much time spent on our devices for both work and social interaction, you might be itching for a screen-free option. Hands-on activities, whether embroidery or drawing, can help you unplug, and knitting particularly has strong stress-reducing benefits.
Knitting is a perfect activity to do in your down-time but talk to your friends about. You can both start the same project (and share endless progress pics) or make gifts to send to the people in your life.
Shake it out together
Even virtually, working out with other people can hold you accountable as much as it can boost your overall relationships. Whether you do socially-distant workouts outside, stream yoga classes with your roommates or via Zoom, or track each other’s runs to motive each other from far away, there are pretty much endless possibilities to exercise together.
And if you just want to recreate the experience of going to a workout class with strangers, there are plenty of budget-friendly options out there. Jabs by Gina, for instance, offers 30-minute group Zoom workouts for $5 a class.
Low-key learn a new language
If your “Emily in Paris” binge made you and a friend actually wish you knew more French, there are ways to dive into some practice without making a huge commitment right away. Duolingo, for instance, counts streaks, which can be a great way to check in with each other (or lightly compete, if that’s your thing!)
Cook up something new
While dinner parties or traveling to new places together are sadly not options right now, you can still get part of the experience via virtual cooking classes. Airbnb hosts many online experiences from teachers all over the world, and among the most popular are cooking classes, from sangria with drag queens to pasta-making with Italian grandmothers.
One of the top-rated classes is a crash-course on making Mexican street tacos from Graciela, a pro chef from Mexico City. In addition to being a fun way to spend time with friends, these classes are also recommended as team-building work activities.
Take an engaging class to motivate each other
As e-learning continues to grow during the pandemic, so are class offerings. One of Insider’s favorites is The Science of Well-Being, a super-popular Yale course, which teaches students how to be happier in their daily lives.
It’s free to sign up, and doing it with friends can help you stay motivated by agreeing to finish a section each week before chatting about it. Or, if you opt for a paid certificate, you’ll get deadlines, which will push you to use the forums more and can inspire you to reach out to others currently taking the same class.