Social media makes social distancing doable

Use social media to maintain connection, but don't forget about those living offline.

Social distancing is meant to keep people physically apart to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but physical distance doesn't have to mean social isolation. Social media was born for this.

As soon as Iowa's first confirmed cases hit the news, a couple of new Facebook groups sprung up in my community, as I'm sure they did in communities all around the country and the world. One of the first was simply entitled, "How can we help?" Around 120 members of our small community quickly joined.

Members put together Easter baskets for local kids in need and are gathering supplies for May baskets for elderly residents. One offered to make yard signs to surprise kids who have birthdays but can't celebrate outside the house.

Others post when they're going to town and volunteer to make stops at the grocery store or pharmacy to save someone else a trip and to help keep those at higher risk safe at home. If someone's short on hard-to-find supplies like diapers or wipes, everyone keeps an eye out on shopping trips.

Dining together, apart

Another local group focuses on food. People are posting photos of meals they're preparing and goodies they're baking, along with the recipes. Since just about everyone is dining in these days, it's nice to get some fresh ideas. It's also helpful to get recipes from people who have actually prepared them. 

One of the best parts of this group is that people are sharing family recipes, not just ones they find on Facebook. The other night, I made Rose Thompson's chocolate chip cake, and it was fantastic. I loved telling my kids where the recipe came from, and my friend Sharon was happy to hear that our family enjoyed her late mother-in-law's special cake.

Some members are querying the group for ideas, like their favorite side dishes to go with a particular main course, ways to use leftover ham, or what to do with a jar of peach pie filling. The answers are always interesting.

It has been really fun to get a peek inside the kitchens of my friends and neighbors. You may know someone for 20 years and have no idea what kind of meals they make. Now I know all about Dani's corned beef hash, Jenny's lasagna, Micki's breakfast pizza, Shawn's cheesesteak sandwiches, Lisa's chicken stir fry, Robbi's cheesy chicken mushroom bake, and Erica's shrimp tostadas, for starters. When this pandemic is over, I think we're going to need to have a community potluck just because we can.

I encourage you to join groups like this in your community, and if there aren't any, start one!

Remember the offline world

When checking Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter becomes such an ingrained part of our lives, it's easy to forget that not everyone is willing or able to take part. This is a good time to remember that our phones can actually be used for making phone calls. 

While you're sitting on the couch watching the live stream of your church service, take a few notes and call someone from your congregation who isn't online. See how they're doing and share some highlights from the service if they'd like. Remember that for some people, those few minutes of chatting after church each Sunday might be the most social interaction they have all week, and they're probably really missing that.

Call elderly neighbors and offer to leave groceries on their porch for them so they don't have to leave home. Check in on friends you normally see on social media if they haven't posted in a while. Shoot them a text or give them a call and let them know you're thinking of them.

A little kindness and personal interaction can go a long way toward making this unique time in our lives a little more livable. Reach out and stay connected.

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