As the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic ushers in a period of self-isolation for millions worldwide, a whole new way of socialising is being born before our eyes.
With official guidelines recommending citizens stay two metres apart, and many countries even banning going outside other than for essential purposes, people are having to create fun new ways to interact and stay occupied.
As a result, there’s been a boon in ‘Netflix parties’ – watching and commenting on movies together in real-time – as a way of staying in touch with friends.
But Netflix is just the beginning. We’ve picked nine other social distancing ideas – things to do to stay entertained and keep your brain and body busy.
Get out the board games
Board games are the perfect way to pass the time, whether you’re staying inside with your significant other, or want to connect with friends online.
Games like Ticket To Ride or Carcassone can be enjoyed with just two players, while many people have been turning to Skype to set up big multiplayer sessions of Monopoly and Risk. Words With Friends is a great option too, for those of you who love Scrabble.
Learn a language
Duolingo is free to use and offers a huge selection of languages to start with from scratch, while Tandem is a language exchange app that connects people from around the world who want to learn from each other.
FutureLearn also has a great selection of introductory language courses that give you a flavour of a language you might have always wanted to learn – but never previously had time for. Even better, all our courses are social, meaning you can chat to fellow learners from across the globe as you go.
Start a Houseparty
People have been raving about Houseparty – a mobile app that lets you easily connect to other friends for group chats and online get-togethers.
Like Snapchat meets Zoom, it’s smartly designed, easy to use, and comes with games like charades and ‘Heads Up’ built-in, meaning you can still mess around with mates without needing to be in the same room.
Channel your inner Jamie
With restaurants and cafes shuttering their doors, people are having to make a big lifestyle switch to eating inside three times a day.
While the immediate impact of this has been queues at supermarkets, in the long-run it could lead to a healthier, more holistic approach to eating and cooking in general.
Jamie Oliver has just announced a new Channel 4 cookery show for the coronavirus era, based around kitchen cupboard staples. In preparation you can start to watch recipe tutorials on YouTube (Pasta Grannies is one of our favourites), or learn about how eating well can improve your physical and mental wellbeing and even be medicinal.
Pickling and baking are two meditative – and time-consuming – kitchen activities that are perfect for long days indoors.
Make and share playlists
For music lovers, it can be hard to process a new reality of a world without gigs and nightclubs – let alone the economic hardship being suffered by those who make their living from music.
Making playlists can be a nice way to stay connected with your fellow music fanatics. Beyond the joy of sharing new music, it feels good to pass on the tracks that are helping your mental wellbing in this time of increased stress.
Here’s a playlist of soothing ambient music from the FutureLearn copydesk that might help and/or inspire you to create your own.
Adopt a pet
Living alone can be lonely at the best of times, and all the more so when you’re physically cut off from family and friends.
With animal shelters still open and looking for prospective adopters, what better moment to find a furry friend to keep you company around the house – and give you an excuse to walk around the park?
Which brings us to…
Even in countries with the strictest rules against outside movement, walking or running in the park is seen as an essential activity to get people moving and raise spirits.
The benefits of regular exercise are well-documented, and with little traffic and spring on the way, now’s a great time to explore your local green spaces, either on foot or by bike.
Video game companies have been taking advantage of the current situation to offer customers the chance to experience new games and to game socially if they haven’t done before.
Playstation are offering a two-week trial of their online service, Playstation Plus, while the wonderfully soothing mobile games Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey have been made free to help anyone starting social distancing.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to work from home, and have some spare time on your hands, now could be the moment to try to improve your writing skills.
Writing is a great way to keep your brain in gear, process your emotions, and feel connected to the outside world – all things that are vital to staying happy while you’re staying inside.