For the uninitiated, Slack is an instant messaging platform used in a lot of workplaces, but plenty of communities are embracing it as a way to socialize and connect creatively with others. It might take a little legwork to find a Slack community (or “workspace”) that’s right for you. Some communities list themselves on Slofile if they’re open to new members (including a personal favorite of mine, a mental health Slack community called 18percent). But you can also tap into your existing networks to see if they have a dedicated Slack. For example, the popular online media support group Study Hall has a Slack plenty of my friends enjoy.
Discord, on the other hand, started as a platform for gamers but has since expanded as a hub for voice, video, and text communication no matter your needs, “whether you’re part of a school club, a nightly gaming group, a worldwide art community, or just a handful of friends that want to hang out,” according to their site. Unlike Slack, you can search right within Discord to find a server dedicated to your interests.
7. Swap from texts to voice or video messages.
If you’re still not sold on this new emphasis on video chatting, I feel you. I only enjoy it in small doses too. The rest of the time, I prefer the bite-size communication of voice memos or video texts. They’re not as intense as a phone call or video chat, but they’re more socially gratifying than a regular ol’ text. You get to see your loved ones’ faces or hear their voices, but you don’t have to sustain a whole conversation. Amazing.
You can do this by recording memos and videos and texting them the way you normally would, but there are a few apps out there you might want to use instead. A lot of my friends use Marco Polo, a video-based instant messager similar to Snapchat, and I’m just starting to get on board too. When I ask my friend Juli Del Prete why Marco Polo was superior to just sending video texts, she explains that because it’s built specifically for video, you don’t have to deal with the time and hassle of sending large files. “It also allows you to react in real time—either through emoji reacts like Instagram Live or with quick snapshots of your face—to specific parts of the video,” she tells me.
8. Get into a role-playing game (RPG).
As SELF’s features director, Sally Tamarkin, suggested when I asked my team for their tips on staying social right now: “DUNGEONS & DRAGONS VIA ZOOM WHAT ARE YOU ALL WAITING FOR.” And it’s true. Now is the perfect time to get into D&D or other RPGs because they’re social, immersive, and, frankly, pretty time-consuming.
Given that it’s on my own personal isolation to-do list, I had to consult some friends for advice on how to get started because the barrier to entry can be pretty intimidating. Sally herself recommends just getting this starter kit or something similar made for beginners, rounding up some friends, and figuring it out over video chat together. “You don’t even need dice, because if you type ‘roll 1 d6’ into Google, it’ll literally roll dice for you,” she tells me. Thanks, technology.
If you want to take a more structured approach or don’t have friends who are interested in going down the RPG rabbit hole with you, you have some other options. My friend Hannah Egbers first got into RPGs virtually with Roll20, which hosts a variety of different games beyond D&D. Most people use it in combination with Discord, Skype, or another communication platform, and many groups will advertise if they’re down to accept newbies.