When it comes to staying connected without connecting indoors or in person, necessity is indeed the mother of invention. From family Snapchats to heavy use of Netflix Party, The Seattle Times’ features staff has found a number of creative ways to cope. Here’s what’s been working for us in our efforts to maintain human connection without putting ourselves or loved ones at risk.

A new take on an outdoor wedding

“My good friends had to cancel their wedding in May due to coronavirus. But in June, they decided to hold a socially distanced elopement. They invited four couples and one family of four to Golden Gardens. Everyone wore masks and sat on blankets 6 feet apart. The blankets were the door gift, and the happy couple provided each blanket with its own bottle of Champagne and two Champagne flutes. Even though they didn’t get the big festive party with lots of friends and family around, we got to watch them say their vows and make that lifelong commitment to each other, and it was beautiful. Also, the sun was out, it was warm but breezy, and when the sunset hit the beach, it felt for a few minutes like all was right in the world, and there was nowhere else any of us would rather be.”

— Stefanie Loh, features editor 

Creative ways to watch movies with others

Drive-in movies! So you can pretend to be ‘at the movies’ like in ‘old times,’ and be around lots of other people while hiding in the comfort and safety of the hygienic air bubble that is YOUR CAR.”

— S.L.

“A friend of mine and I have started watching horror movies together remotely because we didn’t want to see them ‘alone.'”

— Megan Burbank, features reporter

“A friend of mine in Los Angeles organizes semiregular Netflix parties. I know maybe two of the 10 or so people I’ve watched movies with, and we all have random nicknames in the chat so I don’t even know most of these people’s real names. But I love it. It’s so fun. Plus they’re all film people so we watch a lot of critically acclaimed movies, so I feel fancy now! … Still Netflix Party-related, I’m rewatching “Avatar: The Last Airbender” with two friends from college because one of them had NEVER seen it before, so obviously she needs to both watch the show and have commentary from myself and my other friends.”

— Stephanie Hays, features designer


Socially distant hangouts with friends and family

“My mom and I drink wine in her backyard when the weather is clement (haha), but not being able to hug your own mother is … well, words fail. (Hi Mom! I love you.)”

— Bethany Jean Clement, food writer

“We recently had some friends from out of town visit and we sat in our courtyard/on the roof and it felt like nothing had really changed, except for the fact that we were wearing masks and had to keep a distance. It was my first time doing something like that since the pandemic, but I would definitely do it again! I also had a socially distanced picnic with a friend and it was so nice!”

— Yasmeen Wafai, features news assistant

“I’ve had socially distant takeout with friends on my parents’ deck. We can sit in the sun 6 feet away from each other without worrying about strangers getting too close to us. I don’t think we’ve lost the potential for things like spontaneity or joy at all, actually. They just look different. I’ve been inspired by the resilience and creativity of the people around me.”

— M.B.

Using social media apps in new ways

“I have a family Snapchat channel with my brothers, their wives and my mom, and it has been going off! We’re doing lip dubs, retelling hilarious (to us) stories of childhood and generally trying to make each other laugh as hard as possible.”

— Jackie Varriano, food writer

Gaming together virtually

“Like many, I jumped on the Animal Crossing train when it came out, and my best friend and I love to play while FaceTiming each other! We visit each other’s islands and talk about the game, but we also catch up on our personal lives!”

— Y.W.

“Beyond a major uptick in phone calls, Snapchats, texts, DMs and FaceTimes to family and friends, I’ve been playing virtual Settlers of Catan from home. Nobody laugh, but some college buddies and I started a ‘league’ with very official rankings on Google Sheets. I am ashamed to admit how often we’ve played over the past few months, but it’s nice to hop on a Zoom, grab a drink and play a game with friends.”

— Trevor Lenzmeier, features desk editor

Bringing back phone calls

“As an old millennial, I’ve preferred texting over phone calls since T9 was a new innovation on my college-era flip phone (RIP). Can you blame me? I’m a word person who likes thinking before I speak. Aside from a few regularly scheduled chats with close friends and family members — and, OK, the requirements OF MY JOB — pre-pandemic, I was a strictly hoping-for-voicemail kind of person. All that changed after COVID-19. Now I talk on the phone all the time, whether I’m chatting with the friend I watch horror movies with before we press play from different cities, checking in on my best friends who live elsewhere or just across town, or distilling the hours I once dedicated to in-person hangouts down to their purest form: conversation. Nothing else. Because it’s true: Phone calls are more personal, and when our friends are physically distant, phone calls are a much better substitute for getting together than a cursory text or string of emojis (although these too are important). As a kid, I remember reading about the importance of phone calls to teenage life in books like ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ and Beverly Cleary’s dreamy post-‘Ramona’ novels. This was never my experience as an adolescent. But strangely — fortunately — it is now.”

— M.B.