Great Ways to Socialize Remotely: Part 1
by Adam Sharp
Humans are a social species driven to connect with others. Despite quarantines and lockdowns, we’ve managed to find ways to overcome being isolated to maintain those interactions. Below is a list of Circles recommended activities that can help keep those relationships going strong even from a distance.
With the help of co-viewing apps and streaming services, watching movies as a group is one of the most popular ways people have been socializing during the pandemic. What was once a niche feature has now sewn its way into the very fabric of digital entertainment.
Co-viewing parties allow us to harness some of that same camaraderie we once had when we’d get together to go to the movies. And depending on the streaming service, you can co-watch and chat with anywhere between 6 to a hundred people. Platforms such as Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+ allow users to watch shows directly under their domain, while 3rd-party add-ons let users take advantage of other streaming services. Netflix Watch Party (now Teleparty) is one such 3rd-party app that became immensely popular back when COVID-19 was first rearing its ugly head. But Teleparty isn't the only one. YouTube Party, Kast, Metastream, TwoSeven, and Just Chatting—to name a few—have also become top go-to apps. So if you’re looking to kick back and enjoy a movie with friends, or unapologetically mock it (a personal favorite pastime of mine) you should give co-viewing parties a try.
“Tabletop” Role-Playing Games
Immersing oneself in a role-playing game (RPG) is a great means of escape from the confines of quarantine. It’s also one of my personal favorites.
An RPG is an inherently social form of entertainment in which players assume the role of characters set in a fictitious world. Think of it as improvised acting, but without an audience. Players, who often work together as a team, are given narrative-driven tasks or “quests” to complete, and decisions made during gameplay can sometimes affect the overall story. The use of dice-rolling is a central part of tabletop RPGs, where many outcomes are often left to chance. If you don’t have all the types of dice you’ll need, you can always go online and use a dice generator. In addition, you can often find online character sheets and gameplay instructions through RPG homepages or 3rd-party apps.
While tabletop RPGs were originally intended for person-to-person interactions, many can easily be modified for group video calls. I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons (DnD)—by far the most well known and popular of tabletop RPGs—for months via video call, and can personally attest to the games’ ability to adapt from tabletop to desktop. My current DnD campaign includes friends living in Germany, France, and even as far away as Canada, so these games can work for people living thousands of miles apart.
Here is a list of some of the more popular tabletop RPGs out there:
- Dungeons and Dragons
- Star Wars Role-playing Game
- Call of Cthulhu
- Blade in the Dark
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying
- Cyberpunk Red
- Shadow of the Demon Lord
- Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game
These types of games aren’t just for kids either. They're cross-generational. From Gen-Zers to Boomers and everything in-between, RPGs bring people together from all walks of life and provide an ideal way to socialize remotely.
Start/Join a Book Club
For literature lovers, lockdowns and quarantines have given an opportunity to read through all of those Bücher (books) sitting on shelves collecting dust. And if you’re just dying for an outlet to discuss everything you've read, a virtual book club might just be the answer.
Book clubs are a lot like a “fight club,” only without the gratuitous violence—Oh, and with books. These reading groups get together and discuss works they’ve simultaneously binged, often based on manuscripts from an agreed-upon reading list. Their story selections can be genre-specific, while other groups focus on a particular series and/or writers, such as George R. R. Martin. While in-person meetups are currently on hold, book clubs have not only adapted but are flourishing on the world wide web. Some are small local hubs, while others have chapters in thousands of cities across the globe. And if there isn't a book club out there you feel is right for you, you can always start your own.
Joining or starting a book club not only helps release your inner-bookworm but is a perfect way to connect with friends on Circles who share common interests.
Miss serenading friends and complete strangers with the sweet sounds of Journey or the latest hit by Rhianna? Well, lucky for you, you still can. No longer do you have to wait for your name to be called to the stage, a simple download to your phone can bring "Karaoke Night” in an instant.
Numerous karaoke apps have recently hip-hopped their way onto the scene, providing a variety of ways to channel your inner-pop-star for your friends, family, and co-workers to hear. The common “duets” feature, where you are able to have a socially distanced sing-along with a partner, is a highlight of many of these pocket karaoke machines, but that's just the beginning. The Smule app offers such functions as telling you whether or not you're on pitch, while the karaoke app Voloco recognizes your pitch and tone, and tunes songs to match. Apps, like Singplay, even allow users to upload and convert songs into karaoke versions, then record themselves singing. If you're feeling competitive, SongPop 2 allows you to challenge online users to tournaments.
So if you and your friends need to release your inner-songbirds, hosting a Karaoke Night is one way to bring your musical flock together.
A Night at the Theatre (or To Zoom or Not to Zoom)
How many times have you seen a play or movie and thought to yourself, “I can totally play that part better than (X-actor)?” Well, why not give it a shot by staging a Zoom reading of your favorite script?
Getting a bunch of people together to step into the shoes of their favorite characters for a staged-reading is another creative social activity that can be done remotely. And you don't have to be the greatest thespian in the world either, in fact, I’ve often found that people with the least experience are the ones who give it their all and have the most fun.
Staged readings can be done in any number of ways, but are fairly straight forward. Here’s a very basic way to set one up:
- Pick a script, be it a stage play, screenplay, or teleplay.
- Assign someone the role of reading stage directions.
- Decide on who’s reading what characters (could also be the job of a director).
- Pick a group video call everyone can log into (you can keep it to the cast or invite an audience).
- And action! Let the reading begin.
Depending on whether or not you’ve made your reading public, you may want to consider having a quick rehearsal or two beforehand. Also, be sure everyone’s internet speeds are in-sync. A significant lag between reads can KILL comedic timing and dramatic tension.
As for finding a script, there are troves of ebook versions to choose from. Depending on how old they are, many scripts, such as Shakespeare’s, are public domain so you can easily find them online and download them for free. Screenplays are usually very easy to find too.
And if you really want to jazz things up, make your reading a drinking game! Assign rules about when readers and/or your audience has to hold up a glass and take a drink—in moderation of course. I’ve done several staged-reading like this before, and everyone has had an absolute blast. Just be sure you have some food and water on hand as well.
Lastly, if you can’t settle on a script to read, why not write your own? Which leads me to my next topic.
Are you secretly the next Stephen King looking for feedback on your novel? Looking for a writing partner to help you scribe the next big play to hit Broadway? Maybe you just want to hook up with friends on Circles and challenge each other’s storytelling ability. If any of these are on your bucket list, a “write night” might just be what you're looking for.
Having worked on video calls with other writers, I can attest that write nights are an excellent way to release your inner bard. They’re a fun way to hash out ideas, create elaborate story arcs, and pound out pages together. You don’t even have to work on the same project together. Simply having fellow writers on a video call can help motivate you to not make excuses and keep writing. Having deadlines and group meetings helps keep you accountable.
You can even turn write nights into a game if you’re looking for more of a party vibe. For instance, if you want a quick writing activity, start by throwing out a topic, genre, theme, or plot device. Then, give a time limit to see what others can come up with, followed by reading everyone's short works out loud for all to hear. It’s amazing what people can come up with on the fly— perfect for a remote writing party. Author Mary Shelly literally did this a couple hundred years ago with a little book called Frankenstein and look how well that turned out for her. I mean, she’s dead now…but I digress.
Whether you’re looking to write the next New York Times “Best Seller” or just a quick collaboration with friends, writing is a great way to not only socialize remotely but get your creative juices flowing.
Practice a Foreign Language
For many newcomers to Berlin, learning German takes quite a bit of practice. There are plenty of language apps that can help you along your journey, but another means of practicing is by conversing with a fluent speaker. If you’re feeling squeamish about attending in-person language school in light of COVID-19, connecting and scheduling video calls with a German speaker is another way to go.
Working with someone who’s proficient in another language gives you the experience of speaking that language in a person-to-person conversational setting. Simply repeating words over and over again off flashcards can be helpful, but engaging someone in real-world back and forth dialogue is an invaluable experience. You get the advantage of having a partner who can listen, give feedback, and if you have a question about language structure or a particular nuance, they're there to answer your questions immediately versus having to log into a language forum and waiting for someone to reply.
So if you’re interested in learning more than just basic German phrases like “ja” (yes), “bitte,” (please), and “Ja, Zwei Weißweine bitte” (Yes, two white wines please), then connecting with a fluent speaker on Circles is a definite way to go.
Paint and Wine Party
Painting’s fun. So is drinking wine. Put them together, and you might just make a little magic—that, or art that can only be described as “abstract.” Painting with a glass of wine has become a hip social affair that’s not only a great source of entertainment but can easily be done in the comfort of your own home.
Hosting a paint and wine party is easy to put together and can be done with anywhere from a couple of people to as many people as you can fit into your video call.. You can pop open a bottle and free-paint to whatever your wine saturated mind inspires, or you can screen-share an online video lesson for everyone to paint along. There are painting videos on YouTube and other streaming sites, or you can subscribe to paint party websites like paintingparties.com or paintandsiplive.com and use their video lessons. While the perks of each site will vary, many give the option to pick from a selection of different painting styles, classes, and artists, while others give you the option to choose lessons based on your experience level. But however you decide to run your paint and wine party, as long as you have the right art supplies and a good bottle of wine, you’re all set. Speaking of wine…
Virtual Wine Tasting Party
An alternative to hosting a paint and wine party is to simply cut out painting and just stick to wine. Wine tastings may sound a bit bougie, but with the right planning, they can be a lot of fun, even from afar.
Wine tastings usually provide a wide-rage of wines that come in different flavors, aromas, and color—a perfect way to sample ones you may have never tried. It may seem complicated to host remotely, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. All you need to do is assign an agreed-upon list of wines for participants to pick up ahead of time so everyone can have a shared experience. Many people enjoy making use of wine grids or notebooks too so they can take note of each glass’s individual attributes.
Adding a theme to your wine tasting can also give an extra flair to your gathering. Themes can be as fancy as, “Wines of Mosel-Saar-Ruwer” or more down to earth ideas like “Best Box Wine Wines from Your Corner Späti (German convenience store).”
Typically, you'd want to keep your pallet clean to not affect the taste of your wine, so you’d want to hold off on eating while drinking. However, if you do wish to have a more informal tasting, food can be a great inclusion for seeing which wines pair best with certain foods. And if you really want to make an evening out of it, you include your wine tasting with a fancy dinner party.
“Fancy” Dinner Party
Dining out—or in this case, dining in—is another great bonding experience to have with your friends on Circles. Throwing a fancy virtual dinner party gives not just one person the chance to host, but everyone involved.
One of the many perks to taking turns playing host is getting the chance to show off your mad decorating skills by giving a virtual tour of your dining space. You can go upscale with such things as candles, high-end linens, and that fondue fountain you keep meaning to use, or on the flip side, you could go DIY and splash the place with shabby chic decor. Anything to brandish your home to its full potential.
And the same goes for food. You could go from having a three-course meal to creative comfort food. Another option is to decide on a meal plan with your party and cook together remotely as a group.
But the night doesn’t have to stop with dinner. There are plenty of other activities you can do afterward, from classic party games such as charades or Pictionary to teaching each other how to make cocktails, or if you don’t feel like getting off the couch, you can sit back and co-watch a movie.
Fancy people hosting fancy dinner parties is a definite must-try for remote mingling. And don’t forget to dress up!