We’re all getting used to keeping each other at arm’s length at the moment (assuming you’ve got 2-metre arms, that is). For a lot of us, it’s turning out to be a difficult transition. We’re just not used to keeping our doors closed to family, friends or even neighbours. Worse yet, we still really don’t know how long we’ll have to keep this up. With a global pandemic tearing through the country, all bets are basically off.

Of course, social distancing isn’t the same as solitary confinement, and being cooped up indoors doesn’t mean the death of your social life. It just means you might have to broaden your definitions a bit. Your phone, computer, games console and even your TV probably came packed with apps designed for keeping you in touch with other people. The usual line-up of text or image-based social media tools are just the start. Yes, sharing photos of your “lockdown beard” on Facebook is still your solemn duty and needs to be done for the good of the nation. While you’re at it, though, consider getting a little more “face-to-face” in your social media interactions. Here are a few suggestions:

Group Video Chats

Video conference calls are no longer the exclusive territory of big-wig corporate executives and scheming Bond villains. With options ranging from Skype to WhatsApp to Zoom, you’ve got bags of ways to put your face on other people’s screens.

Most of them are free, at least for the kind of use you’re likely to put them to. They’re generally fairly secure, too, with protection like end-to-end encryption being pretty standard features.

Don’t feel limited to a one-to-one chat, either. With the tools on offer, you can get your whole family or pub quiz team together with very little hassle.

Gaming Groups

The days of online gaming being all about getting sworn (or shot) at by random teenagers are long gone. These days, you can play pretty much anything online, from old-school board game classics to full-on tabletop roleplaying systems.

Programs like Tabletop Simulator come loaded with favourites, and the internet’s full of free, fan-made add-ons for pretty much anything you’d want to play. It can be a bit of an adjustment to sit around a purely “virtual” games table, but you’ve got voice-chat built into most of these things and once you get over the learning curve it’s game on!

TV Parties

If you’re going to be sitting on the sofa most of the day watching films anyway, then why not do it with a group of socially-distant mates?

Depending on what you’re watching, you’ve got Netflix Party, Metastream, Syncplay, Watch Party, Rave... the list goes on. These kinds of apps and browser extensions are all designed to turn your screen time social. They can synchronise your media so you’re all watching at the same time, and keep you in contact while you do it. If all of that sounds like hard work, you can simply use your phone for its original purpose and keep up the conversation that way. Then it’s just a quick “3,2,1...” and you all press play together.

The point of all this is simply to show that you don’t need to give up your social life to stay safe. The technology in your pocket and around your home gives you so many ways to reach out and stay connected. Keeping up those key relationships is great for your mental health, and it’s how we’ll get through this crisis – by sticking together, even when we’re not. While you’re reaching out, remember RIFT is always here to help with your tax problems and financial worries.

We’re in a new tax year now, so it’s a great time to get in contact and update your details for your next tax refund. Stay in touch, stay healthy and stay on top of your tax with RIFT.

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