Stay in Touch Without Touching

At its core, the Twin Cities Ecovillage Project is about building community. It’s heartening to see the global community band together to avoid the worst outcomes that may happen due to COVID-19. Sure, it’s been messy. People have pointed fingers, sometimes in their own ears and sometimes at someone else, but I find hope that most people now recognize the danger we face and are doing something about it.

Most states in the U.S. (37 at the time of this article) have been told to stay at home. Almost 300 million people have needed to completely change their habits and to physically keep away from others. In Minneapolis, on top of a statewide shelter-in-place order, we’ve started to use tigers as a means of measurement.

Physical/social distancing equals one tiger width apart

Humans are social animals. We thrive on connection, contact, relationships. How can we maintain community when we need to stay at home?

Fortunately for us, there are lots of ways to create community despite our physical distance. Here are a few ideas of how to stay in touch without touching.

Yell at your neighbors across the fence

Now is the time to get to know your neighbors. Despite what differences you may have, right now we all have at least one great topic for small talk. Try going for a walk in your neighborhood and saying “Hi” to everyone you see. “How’s your day going?” is a great way to start a conversation (from a distance), and right now you might get some pretty interesting responses.

I can see you

We can rebuild community. We have the technology.

Have you heard of this thing called Zoom? Probably. For some reason, Zoom has made headlines as a go-to solution for video conferencing and meeting people remotely. It’s a great option, but it’s not the only one.

As a software engineer, I’m a fan of open-source software tools. Open source means community. Open source software is community-created and shared freely with everyone. As such, Jitsi ( is a great open-sourced video chat alternative to Zoom. It offers similar features without requiring anyone to create an account, and it creates wonderfully random meeting names like “GoldenLayersReflectWildly.”

Some other video options include:

  • Houseparty: great for playing games online
  • Slack: a business-focused tool that works great for large groups
  • Marco Polo: an app with a heart-felt purpose, helping people feel closer together

Um, this is awkward

Okay, so you’re on a call with twenty of your closest friends. Now what? The truth is that video calls can be awkward and full of missed information, unstable internet connections, and embarrassing incidents with children, pets, and messy rooms. Once you embrace the awkwardness, real community can start to unfold. Yep. People are going to say things like “I think you’re still on mute,” “Can you repeat that. You broke up,” and “Oh, did I interrupt you? You go ahead.” That’s okay! It happens to everyone.

Support your local businesses

If you’re lucky enough to have money to spare, share it with local businesses that you want to see survive this hardship. Everyone has been affected. Think about what you value most and what you wouldn’t want to live without. If you live in Minneapolis, use some of these resources:

What else?

Here’s the truth: we all crave connection. This difficult time is revealing our greatest power and greatest vulnerability as humans. We need each other.

Have any other ideas? Share them on our Facebook page.