No more book club? No problem! A look at ways to self-isolate together


TORONTO — Social-distancing has forced Canadians into varying degrees of isolation, but that doesn’t have to mean the end of movie date night, cocktails with pals or baby song circles.

Across the country, friends and strangers are finding innovative ways to continue socializing — while maintaining public health directives to limit face-to-face contact and the spread COVID-19.

Of course there are email, phone and video chats to keep us connected, but they largely restrict virtual hangouts to one-on-one affairs.

Those who crave bigger gatherings can consider videoconferencing tools including Zoom, Google Hangouts and House Party that allow multiple people to connect at the same time. Here’s a look at some of the ways to self-isolate together:



The analog joys of the printed word are now being shared online as book clubs have been forced to skip in-person wine-fuelled hot takes for online wine-fuelled hot takes. Try a group call on Skype or connect through Microsoft Teams to keep your reading momentum going, or just feel like you’re still part of the gang.



You may not be able to go to the multiplex, but you can still enjoy a flick with pals by downloading a Chrome extension that lets you sync whatever you’re watching on Netflix. Netflix Party is supposed to allow you and other couch potatoes to follow the action together, pause together, and make snarky remarks in a chat box alongside the viewer. Alternately, a quick Google search turns up a plethora of other syncing apps that purport to work with various streamers, but may or may not be authorized partners. Of course, you could all just hit “play” at the same time while connected on Zoom, FaceTime or Google Hangouts.



Enterprising enclaves have introduced a neighbourly twist to the scavenger hunt by asking families to post drawings in their front windows for others to find on their daily walk-abouts. In one Ottawa neighbourhood, kids drew shamrocks and taped them to front windows for St. Patrick’s Day, which neighbours had to find and tally. Upcoming themes for coming days include animals, encouraging words, and appropriately for April 1, jokes.



Babies need to see their buddies, too! And of course, regular social dates are vital for many new moms grappling with a strange new routine. Enter the online song circle — just like regular sing-alongs common at early years centres, but live-streamed into family homes. This way, babies can boogie in their living room to favourites like “Roly Poly” and “Zoom Zoom Zoom” while tired parents can take a break from making funny faces. In Toronto, College-Montrose Children’s Place is streaming Saturday mornings and twice-daily weekdays on Facebook.



Trivia nights at the local pub can now be found online, while nights at the bar are being replicated virtually. Raise a glass this weekend to friends via webcam, no need to worry about figuring out who will be the designated driver. Of course, those who don’t drink can also benefit from a weekend happy hour or virtual brunch, especially if structure has gone out the window due to lost work or school hours. And if it motivates you to tidy up the house and upgrade the attire from sweat pants, all the better!



Concerts and music festivals have been cancelled, but many performers are forging ahead with free or nearly free shows on Instagram Live, Facebook Live, Twitter and elsewhere. BYOB and mobile device for chatting and texting, of course, and enjoy an intimate set from acts big and small. Coldplay, John Legend and Neil Young are some of the bigger stars that have spread cheer in recent days, while Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard has been streaming live from his home studio every day.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press


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