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Building Relationships Virtually While Social Distancing

I have to admit, it’s hard to practice intentionality in the midst of a national emergency. When everything around is closing shop, hunkering down, and social distancing, those same patterns become easily imprinted onto how I find myself operating in the day-to-day. 

But between remote work, Netflix binges, and headline reading, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve taken social distancing almost too literally? Am I “flattening the curve,” or have I moved beyond to a place where I’ve given myself permission to disconnect from the world and relationships around me until the storm passes?

Leveraging Virtual Space for Relationship Building

How we manage our relationships during this time is no doubt important. If relationship building takes work and time, continuing to foster, cultivate, and grow those same relationships while limited to the virtual world can feel like a Herculean effort. But there are simple, intentional, and (dare I say it) fun ways that we can engage with each other and grow our relationships with only screens at our disposal.

Here are four ways to build your relationships virtually while also social distancing:

  1. Hold a virtual living room meal
    • Video conferencing platform Zoom recently announced they would be removing the 40-minute time block on group video chats during this period of crisis. Take advantage of their newly free features or other free video platforms like Google Hangouts or Skype and have people over for a virtual meal. Text a link to your friends to meet you in the video chat for dinner and bring your group around the world together in a way that feels like they are sitting across the table from you.
    • P.S. If you do use Zoom, trying out the virtual background feature is sure to bring some laughs and discussion topics.
  2. Have a Facetime game night
    • Use your phone and organize a game night! Try to play a group game like Mafia but do it all over your phone’s video chat feature. Or jump into a video call with someone for a game of Battleship, Connect 4, War, or other games you each have access to.
  3. Spark a trip down memory lane
    • Go through the old photos and videos sitting in your phone, Facebook albums, or computer desktop. If one instantly brings up a memory or story you hadn’t thought about in a while, send it to the people who are connected to that memory and kick off a conversation of reminiscing and nostalgia. 
  4. Share your passion live in a Masterclass for your social followers 
    • Raise your hand if you have ever broadcasted live to people on social platforms like Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram. While it doesn’t get as much use compared to features like Instagram Stories, live sharing is a fun way to demonstrate your expertise in a certain area and bring people along in the journey real-time. Start a weekly live cooking show on Instagram, teach a watercolor painting class on Facebook, lead others in a 15-min home exercise session, or read daily chapters of your favorite book — the options are endless!

Aiming Toward Fellowship

As you try out some of the ideas above, remember that the goal is intentionality — think about how you can leverage your groups’ unique experiences and interests to create space for friendships to grow toward fellowship. 

I’ll leave you with this from author Seth Godin:

"For five hundred years, a fellowship was understood, Tolkien-style, to be a collection of humans engaged in mutual support. [Definition]

It’s hard to imagine something more reassuring, challenging and productive, all at once.

To be part of an organized fellowship is a responsibility and also the chance to leap forward. Join the others, people like you, eager to see and to be seen, and most of all, to be of service. (Worth noting that ‘fellow’ is not gender-specific and in fact is used in the Old Testament in reference to women).

A few decades ago, our status and selection-based culture shifted a common meaning of the word to describe a sort of prize. You get picked for a fellowship, maybe you even get some money, and you can definitely put it on your resume. Missing, too often, is the original magic, the idea that the others are there with you, side by side, together.

That new sort of fellowship isn’t really helpful to most of us. I’m more interested in the traditional, effective kind. Mutual support and a shared journey.

There are organic fellowships everywhere, which sprouted on their own, seemingly out of nowhere, and if you find yourself in one, that’s a wonder to be cherished. They don’t need a name or a published agenda. Simply being in it is sufficient.

For the rest of us, there’s the chance to go start one. Start a fellowship, invite some people along, and then do the hard work to keep it going. All for one and one for all.”

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About the Author

Nate Hamill is the Content Strategy Manager at PLNU and editor of the Viewpoint Online. He graduated from PLNU in 2014 with a degree in business administration.