Let’s remain close while keeping our distance
By Tom Ryder
Hello! With gigs and other Creative Arts events off the table for the foreseeable, I wanted to contribute to our community at this testing time by writing some blog posts for you.
Writing, especially songwriting, has always been a powerful way for me to process emotions and make sense of the world, and there is a lots to make sense of at the moment.
In this new blog series I’ll be exploring the terrain of ‘self-isolation’, solitude and the general ‘alone time’ that many of us will be experiencing. I’ll offer some light relief and bring you tips and techniques to help you and your family stay well.
The economic impact of Coronavirus is evident, but the psychological and emotional impacts of social distancing need to be considered too. These issues, specifically the knock-on effects for mental health and wellbeing, will be my focus. I’ll explore ways that we can still take part, despite being apart.
Let’s begin with some context. Just over 10 years ago, aged 19, I was hospitalised for my mental health while at university. Unfortunately, this pattern repeated itself over the next four years, meaning that I eventually had to withdraw from my studies early and build myself back up from scratch, with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder to boot. While there is no need to go into the specifics, I wanted to explain that I know how it feels to be separated from those dear to you. I also know the extent to which having a creative outlet can help.
Despite those tough times – which were part of my ‘care-free’ early twenties – something amazing happened. Many freedoms were taken away on the hospital ward, yet my fellow patients and I became very creative. Some wrote poetry, some were dancing and singing, while others painted or sketched. I wrote songs.
Music and other creative outlets have been crucial in my recovery and in maintaining balance, and I think they are just as important for all of us now. Such outlets are going to take centre stage in this blog series, because I know how vital they are and how intrinsic they are to wellbeing; they enrich the soul and give meaning to our lives. It’s really important to keep them going at this time, as we take care of those around us and help each other to get back on track. Sharing my experiences with you straight off the bat is not meant as a scare tactic or a tale of woe, I just hope to have set the scene and justified my position in writing these words for you…
So here goes with my first Isolated Wellbeing tip: The Houseparty app.
Houseparty is a new mobile application that enables you to make group video calls. It is best described as a slicker, more up-to-date version of FaceTime that can host multiple users at once. The app follows the usual social media conventions: pick a username, add your friends, let them know when you are ‘in the house’, join a chat and away you go. I had five of my bandmates on there together and the picture and audio quality remained high.
Houseparty is free to download and you can set up ‘locked’ houses for your family or a group of mates. You can also click on the dice to play quiz games with people ‘in your house’.
But don’t just take my word for it! My friend Liz has had a lot to manage in recent weeks, including rescheduling her April 5th wedding. She says: “The Houseparty app kept appearing on different Insta-stories, and when I saw you could have many people in one phone call, this seemed to be the perfect way for our multiple families to catch up.
“My sister has recently had a little boy, and I was finding it hard that I might not see him again soon, so using the app helped to brighten my mood. We also had to reschedule our wedding to August this year after being only two weeks away, so being able to see my family regularly and still have a laugh together has meant the world to me.”
Kicking off a series of creative outlets by writing about a mobile video chat app seems counterintuitive. But it is important to realise the role that technology plays in keeping us connected at the moment. It is devastating not being able to visit relatives, including mums on Mother’s Day. But Houseparty could provide a good option in the meantime. And that next hug is going to mean so much more as a result.
Technology, smart phones and social media receive a lot of bad press, and sometimes for good reason. But this user-friendly app demonstrates the best side of tech. See if you can give it a go this week.