I was back at the family home when the lockdown was announced. I am currently with my parents, my younger sister, my boyfriend of nearly 5 years and the 2 family dogs. I’ve also celebrated my 21st birthday during this time which has been different to what we’d originally planned. This blog is about how I am keeping in contact with friends and family and what I do with them and how I’ve managed to have a really good birthday despite only being allowed to leave the house for one form of exercise a day.
I have several groups of friends who I’ve had various contact with over the past couple of weeks and so my focus for what I’ve been up to with my friends is mostly going to surround a group of friends I’ve had since secondary school; my housemates of this year and family friends.
My secondary friends and I do a lot of gaming together and we also play dungeon and dragons (DnD). Whilst this isn’t for everyone, it’s what we enjoy doing together and it fills up large amounts of time which we have plenty of at the moment. Discord has been a massive part of our interactions as it allows mostly high-quality voice chat and a good way to split up information into text channels for our DnD sessions (see picture). We then use a site called Roll20 for everything else we need for our sessions like battle maps and virtually rolling dice. I won’t say that this is something for everyone but if you’ve ever considered playing DnD then now is actually a great time to give it a try especially with a lot of modules (pre-designed session/campaigns) being made free or cheaper to keep people inside.
Two of my housemates and I had been watching a series together when we were all in Leeds so we’re currently working on the logistics of still watching it together. One way of doing this is using Netflix party, a platform which enables you to chat to friends whilst all watching the same programme at the same time. Unfortunately, our series is not on Netflix so the current plan is to set up a video chat and try and start the episodes at a similar time. This won’t be fool proof, but I did used to do this with my boyfriend when I first moved away for university and with the fast feedback of Zoom there were very few technical errors.
For family friends, my Dad originally set up a group room on Whereby, set the background as a pub and named it with a reference to the Winchester from Shaun of the Dead. This meant that we could just tell people a URL and they would be able to “come to the pub” with us or invite their own friends. We’ve also made use of Zoom’s platform for similar reasons and use it when we have specific people to invite and want something of slightly better video/audio quality.
Chatting to family over video call has definitely been interesting, even with many of my family living further away and so have had to be a part of video calls in the past anyway. We have, however, tried to find some new ways of keeping in contact more regularly to make things easier for ourselves and our more vulnerable family members. A lot of the things we’ve used are similar to keeping in contact with family friends including Whereby and Zoom.
The smaller things are important too, whether it’s just sending a text or even a picture of what you’re up to. For example, I sent my Dad’s Mum a picture of my “uni” set up which she seemed to like seeing.
Then, sometimes, just a phone call to a mobile or even landline will go a long way especially remembering that for some older family members, that may be their preferred way of chatting to you.As an additional note, only one member of our household owns an iPhone so I haven’t discussed FaceTime due to it not really being used generally however, FaceTime is definitely a substitute to any of the video chatting I mention if that’s your preferred app.
It was my 21st birthday on 8 April and with a lot of plans being cancelled and postponed, my family worked really hard to still make it a great day and many celebrations still went ahead just slightly differently. Celebrations started on the Saturday before my birthday, when I was originally going to have an open house party so that I could see all close friends, family and family friends. We had cancelled this around a month before and had started planning how to celebrate safely. We made a Zoom link and set up a camera and mic on a piano stand so that it was well placed for everyone to see us all. Then, friends and family could pop in online whenever they wanted and say hi, have a chat and see anyone else that was on at the time.
Then on my birthday, my boyfriend designed a fun and silly DnD session which we played online using the tools I discussed above. I also had a video chat with some family in Bahrain using Zoom again and a video call over Facebook messenger with my Auntie.
That’s about everything from me on how my family and I are keeping in touch with the people we’re close to. I encourage everyone to really put the effort in to try and chat to as many people as they can because it really does put a smile on their face.
Stay safe, stay kind and stay connected.