• Ellie

16 Ways to Spend Quality Time with Friends and Family in Quarantine

Updated: May 15, 2020

We might not be able to meet up in person, but there are plenty of ways on the Internet to have a good catch up with friends and family either on a one on one basis, or in a group. Or there’s lots of things you can do to remind you of good memories, or help you plan to make some more after you’re reunited. Whether you just want a chat, or a fun activity to do together, hopefully these ideas will prove useful (most of them are tried and tested by our own group of friends)!

1) Video Call – the next best thing to a face-to-face meeting! There are lots of platforms to video call on – Facetime can be used for Apple devices, but if you don’t all have iPhones there’s no need to worry, as plenty of social media apps have a video call function too. These include Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom and House Party, among others. For most of these you are able to call in a group chat too and speak to multiple people (we find that Zoom works best for group calls, although we’ve used all the others too and they generally work well). Apps such as House Party allow you to play games together as well.

2) Pub Quiz – A popular pastime throughout the country, not even coronavirus can quell the mighty Pub Quiz (although it can force us to move over to video call instead). We religiously Zoom call every Tuesday evening to embark on a quiz that always manages to take about two and a half hours to complete (this is not due to the quality of our quiz writing, more our inability to shut up – although Zoom has a useful function that allows the host to mute others if they’re too rowdy). The mute function on Zoom is also useful if you have a quiz team, like in our family quizzes, so that you can discuss your answers without others eavesdropping, or, in our case, if you don’t want to let everyone else know that you’re completely clueless. You may think it could be problematic if, like in our friend quizzes, you’re quite literally miles away from your teammates. However, Zoom has a chat function, where you can either message everybody on the call, or an individual person, without talking. This is also useful for when your Mum gives you a threatening glare as she heads up to bed. So write some rounds (or find lots of free ones on the Internet if you feel like cheating) – it’s always fun to include ones specific to the group, such as a ‘who did what’ round, and rake out all the dirt – there are some perks to not being allowed within slapping distance of each other. So, nick some of your parents best quality alcohol and get writing!

3) Virtual Tours – Zoom (I swear this is not an advert for Zoom but it is honestly a life changer in lockdown) also allows the host to share their screen. Although this has not always been to my benefit - especially when your host thinks it’s funny to share pictures of you in an airport café on two hours sleep with hot chocolate all over your face with the entire group (thanks Rosie) - it also means that you can share online experiences with your friends. The other day we were all transported to the Great Barrier Reef with our favourite national treasure David, an interactive tour full of videos and facts about life in and around the reef. Have a look online and see what takes your fancy.

4) Film Night – unfortunately we can’t all meet up and trash our friends’ living rooms, stuffing our faces with junk food as we talk over the film. However, it’s an almost entirely authentic experience doing it online – you don’t even miss out on the heated arguments over what to watch, with the added bonus of no one stealing your food! We just find a film we want (or are forced) to watch on Netflix and try to press play at the same time (it’s never the same time), while on video call. It sounds really unsophisticated but it’s actually quite fun. There are also chrome extensions you can use such as Netflix Party (where you can synchronise programmes on Netflix and message in a group chat), and Rabbit (you can video call and watch things off Youtube, Netflix etc)

5) Lockdown Challenges – when lockdown started, we had rather ambitious plans for self-improvement. We were going to become marathon fit, whilst simultaneously unleashing our inner Van Gogh, expanding our minds through classics such as War and Peace, learning Russian in a tree pose and writing a profound novel whilst listening to motivational podcasts. In reality, many of us are guilty of spending far too much of the last month finding excuses to do sweet FA. Obviously it’s really important to relax, and gain some relief from the constant demands of life. But if you want some motivation to try and get achievable things done while you’ve got some spare time, coordinating it with your friends is really helpful. With our friends, we’ve made 35 ‘challenges’ that can be anything from ‘baking something new’ to ‘learning a new skill’, ‘calling someone you haven’t in a while’ to ‘setting a fitness target’. We share photos or describe what we’ve done on the group chat, which is really good for updating each other on what we’ve been up to and giving us some motivation. People can pick and choose which challenges they’d like to do, and the idea is you end up feeling a bit more positive about yourself.

6) Games – there are plenty of games that you can still play together even if you’re apart. Other than quizzes, you can also try a Bingo night over Zoom. I won’t pretend to know much about them, but I have a brother who’s constantly online with his friends so know that there are loads of multiplayer games available on Xbox and PlayStation. We also love apps such as ‘Psych’, where you log on using the same game code and get asked questions about the other player. The person the question gets asked about votes for their favourite answer, although it’s more fun if you go for funniest. Whoever gets the most votes wins that round.

7) Sending them something – Why not send your friends something in the post? Everyone loves receiving letters, and it’s something you can keep and look back on. It’s also a bit more descriptive than texting. You could also send them something to let them know you’re thinking of them, whether it’s something you’ve made, or a small present. They will really appreciate it!

8) Competitions – you can set up small competitions amongst your friends. You could try a Bake Off, where you set yourselves a task and time, then compare aesthetics and taste (ask your most brutally honest members of the family, in my case, any of them, to judge this part). A similar process goes for pretty much anything - creating something, growing a plant, a talent show etc.

9) Music – make a collaborative playlist on Spotify. We’re doing ours over 30 days and taking it turns to set a new topic for each day. By the end you’ll have a big playlist of all yours and your friends’ favourite songs, that will remind you of each other.

10) Memories – I don’t know about you, but I’ve got so many photos to sort through on my phone and laptop that I’ve been meaning to put into albums. I also don’t really have the excuse of ‘being too busy’ to put it off anymore. But really there isn’t a better time to start thinking about organising your pictures, or writing down some of the best times. Having a good reminisce will make you even more excited to see your friends and family again.

11) Messaging platforms – you might not like spending much time on your phone or be great at regularly calling people. However, if you have social media such as WhatsApp, Messenger or Snapchat, it’s easy for you to send quick texts, or photos and videos for free, and you don’t have to organise a date and time. You and your friend could send each other one picture a day to keep each other updated; you could even decide to watch the same series, read the same book, or work on a similar project, and share your thoughts with each other.

12) Clubs – if you’re organised you could start some clubs with your friends or family that can be run online. You could run a Book Club, where everyone decides a different book to read each week and you discuss them over a call, or a Debate Club over Zoom or Microsoft Teams- the great thing is if it gets too heated you can just pretend your Wi-Fi cut out.

13) Work outs – If you’re wanting to try and start work outs or keep fit, why not do it with a friend or two over Facetime. Setting a time and involving someone else might help you actually do it and stop you from ending up in the fridge instead of your gym gear.

14) Phone/email – Might sound old fashioned but sometimes phoning and emailing is a good way of catching up, especially with relatives or family friends. Even a short call or email will mean a lot to people, including older family who may be isolated on their own. It might be an idea if you don’t already to try and get relatives up and running with WhatsApp and make a group chat where you can share what you’ve been up to.

15) Challenges – Lots of the challenges that go around Instagram and Facebook, such as the Run for Heroes 5K challenge, involves you nominating friends and it’s really fun all giving them a go, especially when it involves forcing five of your mates to run three miles under the name of charity.

16) Plan for when you’re out of lockdown – although it might not seem like it, we will eventually be allowed out and able to meet up without feeling like we’re breaking five different laws. Why not start to plan something for when lockdown’s over – it could be something as small as a barbecue, or a big holiday. Obviously you can’t guarantee when we will be allowed out, or to travel, but you can start thinking about places you’d like to visit and save money. And some post lockdown parties are definitely in order.

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