Socializing in Times of Social Distancing

Zoom is the New Way to do Social

In mere weeks the way we have gone about our daily living has changed worldwide. Everything from how we grocery shop to how we visit friends and family is different. Social distancing is a “thing” now. Being able to socialize requires us to now think outside the box and come up with innovative twists to stay connected. Online video meeting apps have become essential to how we interact, from business to school and even happy hours.

This past weekend we visited with our sons online via Zoom, my video app of choice. It began as a happy hour to check in with everyone, but by the end we were all eating dinner together. It was so much fun catching up!! We visited online for about two hours, and it felt as if we were in the same room with each other. Almost.

This got me to thinking about other ways to connect via social media. Most weekends we get together with our neighbors for either happy hour or dinner or some other fun outing. Obviously, limits are now in place as to how many can gather in one place, and really, if we are able to gather at all (we cannot here). I decided to send out a group text to everyone and invite them to dinner…virtually.

The text invite read: “We are hosting dinner tomorrow at our place…and yours 😉 We’ll dine via Zoom, and I’ve got a special table big enough for ALL of us. Bring yourselves, your families, your meal (BYOD!!), wine (duh!), and your sparkling personalities!! Who’s in? ”

Most everyone was able to join us, and we met online at 6:30pm the next night. Because I was the host, I set our table and had dinner ready early so I could be available should any questions arise regarding the connection process. I loved that I only needed to clean the part of my house that appeared on video. No one needed to see my messy kitchen or dusty furniture. LOL

I served my homemade ricotta as an appetizer (see this post for more information), a tossed salad, and spaghetti with meatballs & Italian sausage for the main course. And since this was a dinner party, we served one of our favorite Italian bottles of wine with our meal.

Dessert was dark chocolate BarkThins, my latest culinary obsession!! I’m addicted!!

Dessert!

After eating we played “Psych,” a phone app that allowed us to play together even though we were in different houses. Please note the scores. Also, note that my name in Italian is Cinzia…;-)

Cinzia is my name in Italian. You might take note of the score..#NotCompetitive

ZOOM Tips for Social Meetings

As you might imagine, an online video meeting can be challenging, especially if you have a lot of people. I’ve been in other online groups that have been super loud. When too many people try to speak at once some voices get cut out and others don’t have a chance to be heard. Here are some of my suggestions for hosting a successful Zoom dinner party:

  1. Send out the link ahead of time and have everyone sign up early if they don’t already have the app. Obviously, you’ll need your own account to host. Zoom offers a free version; however, if you have 3 or more in your meeting you are limited to a 40 minute session. Your choices are to re-sign in after 40 minutes, use a different video medium (ie Skype or FaceTime), or consider getting the Pro version of Zoom. They currently offer this at $149/year, though I hear there is discount of half off right now. I had the Pro version already, so we used that for our dinner night. I am not familiar with Skype or other video options, so my focus here will be on Zoom.
  2. Send out a reminder the day before your dinner, and again a few hours beforehand.
  3. Set up in an area you are okay to have seen. As I mentioned above, one advantage of an online meeting is you only need to clean the space that is on camera. 😉
  4. If you are the host, plan to sign in a few minutes early. Be ready to assist anyone having difficulties, and also to make sure you are not having any connection issues yourself.
  5. Once the dinner has begun, use gallery view so you can see everyone present at once. In gallery view you can see up to 49 people depending on your particular computer screen. *For this reason, if there are more than 4 in your group it’s better to use a computer rather than join via phones. ‘With Zoom you cannot see more than 4 screens at a time.
  6. Microphones. As I mentioned above, it can be tricky to have so many people on at once. We did not have an issue for this gathering, and there were 8-10 of us over the course of the call. Having said that, I have been in other video meetings where speaking was difficult. A couple of my recent online classes requested mics to be muted except when comments were made or questions asked. I’m not sure how well this would work in a social video meeting and don’t really have any suggestions on how to solve this. One tip I’ve seen is to wear ear buds or good headphones because that helps with the echoing effect. I have not yet tried that.

Social Connection Tips from YOU!

This was a wonderful experiment, and I look forward to many more opportunities to gather with friends and family via social media. As of this time we are planning a birthday dinner next week with one of my sons.

I’m rather new to the hosting side of Zoom. Anyone out there with other solutions and ideas, not only with Zoom but with your own innovative ideas, please post in the comments. I’d love to hear how you are staying connected.

Until next time, I wish you health and connection with others (from a safe distance!). Bon appetit, y’all!

Please share with your friends, thank you!

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