Easing Social Distance Isolation, Virtually

Imagine inviting a friend for a virtual coffee date or glass of wine.

Posted Mar 15, 2020

Emotional connections are important. During stressful times, positive emotional experiences with others can relieve stress and facilitate adaptive coping.[i] [ii] Yet faced with a pandemic and focused on depriving the Covid-19 virus of new hosts, physical distancing has become necessary. Social distancing also creates emotional distance. Thus, what are some of the ways in which we can connect with others during this time? 

When socially isolated, children will miss the attention they receive from adults and other kids while they are in school. Using video conferencing, a virtual dinner with relatives, friends, or another family can provide children with an opportunity to interact. Since it is all about emotional connection, you can simply see what happens when children and adults join together in this way. Grandparents who lament their limited contact with grandchildren can read books to them or engage in an activity. Certainly, it’s not as wonderful as getting a huge hug, but face-to-face contact through a screen is more engaging than only vocal interaction.

Parents with young children can create virtual playdates with others using a video conferencing program. Kids can “play” together, or parents can take turns volunteering at certain times of day to read a book to children or create a game they can play together. Multiple children can interact through the use of programs where more than two people can connect. Parents can get a bit of a break with virtual activities hosted by other parents or family members who live in other homes.

Can you imagine asking a friend to have a virtual coffee date or a glass of wine? It works. Using an iPad or mobile phone we can even take a walk with a friend or cook dinner while chatting with them. If you are a user of social applications to meet new people, a date does not have to be postponed during physical distancing but can take place virtually in any make-believe venue. We don’t have to give up our book club or movie groups. Using programs where multiple people can meet together, the emotional resonance inherent in such activities can continue.

Certainly, our present situation challenges us to creatively maintain emotional resonance with others. During times of adversity, positive emotions activated by social interactions may have both a protective and restorative function that quells the effects of distress and fear, fosters recovery from stress, and contributes to resilience and stress resistance. [iii] [iv]Overall, when we are faced with adversity, positive emotional experiences with others, even virtually, can help. If readers of this post have suggestions for maintaining an emotional connection with others while we are socially distant, I invite you to add them in the comments section.

References

[i} Ong, A. D., & Allaire, J. C. (2005). Cardiovascular intra-individual variability in later life: The influence of social connectedness and positive emotions. Psychology and Aging, 20, 476–485.


[ii] Folkman, S., & Moskowitz, J. T. (2004). Coping: Pitfalls and promise. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 745–774. 

[iii] Ong, A. D., Bergeman, C. S., Bisconti, T. L., & Wallace, K. A. (2006). Psychological resilience, positive emotions, and successful adaptation to stress in later life. Journal of personality and social psychology, 91(4), 730.

[iv] Tugade, M. M., Fredrickson, B. L., & Barrett, L. F. (2004). Psychological resilience and positive emotional granularity: Examining the benefits of positive emotions on coping and health. Journal of Personality, 72, 1161–1190.