How to Be Social Again

Returning to the world post-pandemic

By Courtney Morton.

The U.S. is slowly beginning to emerge from the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. It isn’t over yet, and it’s important for us all to realize that it may not be for some time. But with vaccination numbers rising and cases in many places declining, a sense of normalcy is slowly returning. And with that sense of normalcy, people are beginning to socialize in person once more. This is an absolutely wonderful thing from a wellness perspective –– not least of all for those of us in younger generations, who in addition to isolation have been coping with toxic productivity issues now more than ever. We're meant to spend our time on more than our obligations, and what's more, we're meant to interact. A year in varying states of isolation has wreaked havoc on our mental health (which is mostly a conversation for another piece!). It’s an understatement to say that seeing one another in person again will do us good. With all of that said though, it’s also going to be weird. Socializing takes regular practice, and the simple fact is that most of us haven’t gotten much of late. We won’t interact in person the way we do on Zoom or over the phone, and this is likely to make for some awkwardness and discomfort in the early going. This is totally fine, and will be part of the process or most of us. But it does make it interesting to think about certain ways of "getting social" again that might speed up the transition back to normal. For anyone else who’s been battling with these ideas internally, I decided to write a little bit about some fun ways to socialize post-pandemic that might help to break the ice, so to speak. Have that meal out I’m personally of the mind that something as direct as a meal out might actually be one of the awkward ways to re-enter the social world. And yet, I can’t seem to stop noticing accounts of people’s visits to restaurants when they first emerge, and they’re all incredibly joyous. For anyone who enjoys eating out (that would be yours truly), this seems to represent such a powerful return to normal that it feels like a signal that everything is okay. So even if it might be awkward to sit at a table with a friend and “catch up” (let’s be honest neither of you did much of anything in the last year), it might be such an overwhelmingly positive experience that it speeds up the inevitable journey through bizarre re-socialization. Maybe, by the time dessert comes, it will feel just like old times. Host a game night In case people have forgotten after more than a year without socializing, there was actually a board game trend that got pretty active and widespread before COVID-19. This was largely chalked up to people in the digital generations craving some good old-fashioned in-person contact (raises hand) — and isn’t that what we’re all doing now? As someone who’s more than a little tired of “Zooming” with friends, I simply love the idea of hosting a few people I’m close with, breaking out some drinks, and playing a long game of Monopoly, or successive games of Clue (just to name my two personal favorites!). Plus, this is a little less direct than a meal. Playing a game gives you something to do while you hang out, so you don’t get stuck talking about how you’ve been “hanging in there” (everyone’s favorite phrase these days) during the pandemic. Or a poker night I’ll add poker to the game night idea, partly because it offers a different kind of experience and interaction that a lot of people love. But I also want to mention poker because there’s been quite a lot of talk about how online poker among friends “boomed” during COVID-19. This happened to some extent with board games as well (people played over video chats), but poker was basically a ready-made way for people to have a little bit of fun with friends and family over the internet. It's a familiar game to many; playing poker as a beginner involves only a brief, quick leaning curve; and it can really be played online as easily as in person. I for one, however, love the idea of taking a digital, pandemic-era activity and spinning it right back into the real thing now that it’s safe (in many cases) to do so. That is to say, for those who did play online poker with friends, playing the same game in person will be perfectly representative of what’s changed. Go for a movie and a drink Hosting a game and/or poker night sounds wonderful, but part of the fun of socializing in 2021 is also going to be getting out to do so. And as something of an alternative to the basic “go to a restaurant” idea, I like the option of seeing a movie with friends, and having a drink afterwards. For one thing, this is just exceptionally ordinary in the best way. More to the point though, it should help you ease into things. You can simply enjoy being together at the movie without needing to rush into conversation. And then, when you grab a drink, you’ll have the movie to talk about rather than just what each other have been up to. Am I overthinking things a little bit here? Maybe! But I know I for one have had a hard time finding much to say without having done much for a year, and an idea like this can probably help to kickstart the return to normal. Exercise Finally, consider exercising together! A bit of movement and activity can make for an excellent start to the "post"-pandemic era (such as it is). It will be a nice treat to exercise out in the world again, and doing so with friends is a great way to enjoy some easy social activity. And again, with an activity like this you can easily find things to talk about without having to recap an uneventful 12 to 15 months! None of this is to make socialization after the pandemic seem too daunting. It will be wonderful to do normal, social things again, and you’ll certainly fall back into a rhythm with friends and family. But a little bit of strangeness is to be expected, and planning activities like the ones discussed above can only help!