Keeping the “social” in social distancing

Keeping the Social in Social Distancing, Law Student Style

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

As you are likely settling into online classes, you may be wondering how to manage your new work-from-home life. In addition to figuring out how to succeed in online courses, it’s important to make sure you are protecting yourself from isolation and loneliness as well.

There is a lot of research that indicates that working from home can be isolating and depressing, but it doesn’t have to be. For law students, who already tend to have higher rates of anxiety and depression, this time of enforced social distancing could either exacerbate those predispositions or provide some relief from the constant pressures of school and competition. Either way, staying connected, especially in such a new and maybe scary time, is critical.

Fortunately, we live in an age where over-connectivity is our typical problem and as such, the avenues for staying connected are already well-developed.

Here are a few ways to stave off isolation and loneliness even if you’re trapped in your house:

Zoom

I have a feeling that by the end of the semester we will all have a love/hate relationship with Zoom. I am dreading the moment one of my professors attempts their first virtual cold call, but Zoom is a powerful tool with a virtual cornucopia (do you see what I did there?) of cool features that you could use to:

  1. Host a virtual game night or happy hour
  2. Create a drop-in room for your organization or affinity group
  3. Have a virtual study group or book club
  4. Attend a support group or recovery meeting
  5. Throw a virtual birthday party
  6. Create an online “dog park” where everyone shows off their pets
  7. Host a virtual poetry reading
  8. Distance-jam with your band

Netflix Watch Parties

Netflix Party is a genius Chrome extension that allows you to sync up your viewing with others and chat in an included sidebar. It’s particularly great because it allows you to keep all of your regular Netflix viewing settings (subtitles, etc.) but also ensures that you are at the same point in the film as everyone else watching with you. If one person pauses the movie, it pauses for everyone! So cool.

FYI, Netflix Party only works on Chrome on Desktop.

Quaranchat

What an insane world we live in when there is a website that connects you to strangers all across the globe for a nice little phone chat. It’s like quarantine roulette, but without the downside of losing money, because it’s completely free! Calls happen over the internet via DialUp instead of a phone line, so no international calling charges.

Social Media

Social media is great, obviously, but not without its downsides. Twitter is my go-to (because #poetry, #academictwitter, and #lawtwitter are a thing), and I have been so pleasantly surprised and overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and genuine connection I have seen happening there over the last few weeks. Plus, healthcare providers in the U.S. have been turning to social media to connect with doctors and nurses in other countries for advice and strategizing.

Because of the algorithms and the “false courage” that communicating through the somewhat anonymous medium, Twitter can either become a feedback loop or a hub of negativity. Tons of research shows that undisciplined use of social media leads to higher rates of depression and anxiety, which obviously none of us need. Use with care.

Remember the good, old fashioned phone.

If you can stay home right now, this is a great time to catch up with long-distance friends and family. I am a horrible phone-communicator, and the frenetic pace of law school has made me an even worse phone person. I am taking this extended quarantine as an opportunity to call my people and reconnect.

Telehealth Apps

If your doctors and therapy offices have canceled face-to-face appointments, as mine have, have no fear! There is a plethora of virtual options that may be covered by your health insurance. This could be a primo opportunity to finally take that step to talk to a therapist, and you wouldn’t even have to leave your house. If you’re not sure what your insurance will cover, pick up that good old fashioned phone and ask. They are likely fielding tons of telehealth questions at the moment.

Keep the social in social distancing and reach out on Instagram or Twitter @the1lLife and let me know how you are doing in these strange times, and don’t forget to be extra gracious to yourself and others.

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