If you are hoping to revive friendships or improve your social life with friends who you can’t see in person, the key is to find fun, meaningful, and interactive ways to connect online. This article will discuss the importance of staying connected to friends, 12 great things to do with friends online, and ways to get the upsides of technology without the downsides.
- Are virtual interactions as beneficial as real-life interactions?
- 12 fun things to do online with friends
- Reducing the risks of excessive time online
There are countless physical and mental health benefits of socializing. Having frequent, meaningful social interactions makes people healthier, happier, and overall more satisfied with their lives. The question is: can virtual interactions provide these same benefits?
The answer to this question is somewhat complicated and one that has produced mixed results in research.
For example, some recent studies found that having more virtual interactions with friends and family lowered stress, mental health problems, and feelings of loneliness for some people. Other research found no correlation between the frequency of online interactions and mental and social well-being during times of prolonged isolation.
It may be the case that all forms of online interaction aren’t the same, and some may be more beneficial while others are more harmful. Some studies have found that the most beneficial ways to connect online with loved ones are more interactive in nature. For example, some research has found that:
- Active social media users (people who frequently post, comment, message, and interact with people) are more likely to report feelings of connectedness than passive users (who scroll or browse without interacting with people)
- Talking to someone on the phone or video chatting with someone leads to greater feelings of social connection than texting, messaging, or online chats
- Using friend and dating apps to meet new people and form new friendships and romantic relationships can help people develop new offline relationships
- Interactive activities like online gaming can help people connect, talk, and interact in real-time while doing something enjoyable together and can be a way of spending quality time with friends
- Collaborative activities that involve working together on a project, mission, or towards a common goal or cause are more likely to lead to more meaningful online interactions
Below are 12 ideas of things you can do online to stay connected with friends, including many that can provide chances for more meaningful and fun interactions.
There is something within us that is always striving to learn, grow, and improve, and this can be a great way to connect online with friends who have similar goals or interests. For example, consider enrolling in an online self-help course with a friend who struggles with a similar issue or partner up with a friend who’s interested in online Zumba, Crossfit, or yoga.
Online courses and classes can be a great way to stay connected with friends, especially since they help to establish a regular routine of seeing each other. Also, tackling goals with a friend makes both of you more likely to follow through and achieve them, which is an added bonus. Working together towards a shared goal can also strengthen your bond with a friend.
Nowadays, there are more live-stream concerts and events than ever before, and they’re often more affordable than live events. If you and your friends have similar tastes in music or art, or like the same kinds of events, consider inviting them to attend online events with you.
What’s even better about online and virtual events is that you can “attend” events happening in real time all over the world, minus all of the usual travel expenses. This opens up a whole new range of exciting opportunities to see your favorite artists, musicians, actors, or comedians.
Game nights and trivia nights are a great way to stay in touch with a group of friends, and doing them virtually makes it possible to extend invitations to friends and family members who live far away. There are many different websites and apps that make online gaming and trivia nights fun, easy, and often free of charge.
One upside to online games or trivia challenges is that they often provide more chances to interact with people than other types of online activities. For example, trivia games often involve working together on teams, which provides more chances to connect than other passive activities like watching TV together.
The internet is a vast archive of art, music, and media, and it can be really fun to explore these with friends, especially those who share your interests. For example, discovering new musicians and podcasters with friends can be a fun way to connect.
There are also more adventurous options like “digital tours” that allow you to view different museums together, including ones that would be expensive or difficult to travel to. You could schedule a virtual tour of world-famous museums like the Louvre in Paris, or even take a live “walking tour” of Rome or visit this famous Kyoto temple.
Another great way to connect with friends online is to work with a friend on a DIY project, hobby, or creative project. Setting up a Zoom or Facetime call to try a new recipe together, trade home DIY tips, or chat while you sketch is a great way to spend time with friends.
Creative projects make great therapeutic outlets and doing them with friends ups the benefits even more. These are great ways to connect with friends, especially ones who have similar hobbies or interests. Making these calls regular (like once a week) will help you make time for the activities and friends you love the most.
There are tons of great shows and movies to stream these days, and watching with a friend can be a lot more fun than watching alone. For example, if you and your friends used to get together to watch the Bachelor, there’s no reason to abandon this routine if you’re unable to see each other in person.
Instead, keep the ritual alive by starting a group chat with your friends and organizing a weekly streaming night to watch your favorite show together. Even if this wasn’t something you used to do with friends, it can still be a fun way to reconnect with friends. You could even have “virtual date nights” with someone you’re interested in.
Virtual book clubs or discussion nights can be an awesome and fun way to stay digitally connected to your friends. Try floating this idea to a group of friends to gauge interest, and if enough people agree, set up a day and time to begin.
Rotate among your group to allow each person a turn to choose a book or topic for meetings because this will help keep everyone interested. If you don’t know what to read or discuss, take a look at the NY Times Bestsellers list or this list of intellectual discussion topics.
If you’re into researching random or interesting topics online, this can be another cool thing to do with your friends. Zoom calls are great for this because they allow you to screenshare with each other to read or watch content together.
For example, you could research conspiracy theories, aliens, quantum physics, or whatever topics spark your interest. Again, just make sure that the subjects you choose are ones that also interest your friends, or take turns choosing. Arranging virtual hangouts where you research interesting topics together is a great way to have deep conversations with friends.
Online gaming is one of the most popular pastimes for people of all ages, and can be a fun way to interact with friends online. Xbox Live and Playstation Plus are paid subscriptions that allow you to talk and play your favorite games with friends, but there are lots of free options as well.
For example, there are a number of phone apps that can help you and your friends to play games together online. These apps make it easy and simple to coordinate online games with your friends (especially if video games aren’t your thing). Online games can be a fun and interactive experience that allows you to virtually connect with friends.
Another interesting and fun thing you can do with friends online is to collaborate and work together on a project. For example, you and a friend might be interested in starting a blog, podcast, or Youtube channel.
If you aren’t interested in this kind of publicity, you could work on a more low-key project together, like designing wedding invitations or a compilation video for another friend. Sometimes, two minds working together on a project produces a more interesting final product while also helping you and a friend strengthen your bond.
Not all online connections with friends need to be 1:1, especially if you have friends who you used to see for playdates with kids, double dates, or even family game nights. This is a great way to include your family and loved ones in your virtual hangouts with friends, especially if you both have partners, kids, or families.
Think back to the things you used to do when you’d hang out with family and friends and try to find a way to translate this into a virtual gathering. This can be a great way to keep yourself and your loved ones in touch with the friends you used to hang out with in real life.
Most of the time, the go-to activities that you and your friends used to do when you would hang out together in real life can be done online. Many of these are listed above, including attending concerts, watching movies, or playing games.
If none of these appeal to you, try making a list of some of the things you used to love doing with your closest friends. Next, try to think about ways to make these activities virtual. Here are some examples:
- Exercising: If you and a friend regularly used to meet up at the gym, go for hikes, or do hot yoga together, it might still be possible to continue this tradition. Consider setting a regular time with a friend to do Yoga, strength training, or even talking on the phone as you both walk around your neighborhoods
- Hobbies: Hobbies and activities are some of the best ways to spend quality time with a friend. If you and a friend used to do certain hobbies like puzzling, crafting, or gardening together, consider setting up times to meet up online to resume these activities.
- Shopping: Even shopping trips can become online activities to do with friends. Whether it’s Facetiming or sending pictures to friends while you’re shopping in stores or even talking or video chatting while you do some online shopping together, it’s still possible to have virtual shopping trips with your BFF.
- Restaurants, cafes, and bars: Restaurants, bars, and cafes have always been one of the most common hubs for socializing. While it may not be possible to grab lunch or drinks in public, it is still possible to meet up for virtual dinners, drinks, and coffee from home.
If you’re looking for ideas when meeting your friends IRL, here is a list of fun things to do with your friends in person. And if you are on a budget, you might also like this list of free and cheap things to do with your friends.
According to new research, some people are now spending as many as 17.5 hours per day in front of screens, a drastic rise from the estimated 11 hours per day just a few years ago. Still, there is no reversing this trend, especially as more people rely on technology for all aspects of life, work, and now social relationships.
Despite the potential harms of excessive time online, more research suggests the quality of your screen time matters more than the quantity. Being more intentional about how you use your devices and spend your time online can help you get more of the upsides and less of the downsides.
Here are some suggestions on how to reduce the risks of excessive screentime while still reaping the benefits:
- Monitor your screentime by looking at screentime reports that break down the amount of time you spend doing different kinds of activities online or on your devices
- Set limits on your screentime or the time you engage in certain higher-risk activities (like mindless games and scrolling social media feeds)
- Become more aware of which online activities and content have a positive impact on your mood, energy, and wellbeing and which have a negative impact
- Limit content that has a negative impact by unsubscribing or unfollowing people who post negative content and deleting apps, feeds, or games that waste your time
- Set device-free times (like during dinner or before bed) where you step away from screens to do other activities you enjoy
- Think of your devices as tools that can help to enhance your life, work, and relationships —and use them accordingly
Technology is a tool that can be used to help you enhance your life and relationships, but only when you are thoughtful and intentional about how you use it. One of the best uses of technology is to connect with friends, family, and loved ones. The more interactive, meaningful, and engaging the online activities are, the more they can benefit you and be a useful tool that helps you maintain your closest friendships.