How to Connect with Your Community This Season
One of the most common things we’ve been hearing from Zipsters this season is a desire to reconnect with what’s really important—whether it’s supporting a cause that matters, volunteering in the community, or simply making an effort to spend more time with people IRL. Which is one of the reasons we started our Holiday Community Board, a place where anyone can share and find community events near them that could use some love. (We’re talking meet ups, potlucks, community outreach…you know, the non-digital, real-world type stuff.)
This season, we really want to bring the attention back to the folks in the room and avoid the daily distractions that get in the way. And there’s no distraction greater than the bottomless pit that is the Internet. Hey, we get it…it’s tricky. Digital life is more than just addictive—it’s also intertwined with how we socialize, communicate, and see ourselves professionally. But it doesn’t have to be all the time. Read on for ways to get off-screen and reconnect with what matters most.
Limit your screen time
The average American spends about 10 hours in front of a screen every day, and this probably isn’t news to you. You’ve probably even thought (or tweeted) about “unplugging” before—perhaps after a long and revelatory conversation with a friend about how the good stuff only happens in real life. It’s hard, but our advice is to just dive in. Turn off your notifications, only check your phone for a few minutes every 2 hours, and see where you go from there. (You can also track how much time you spend on your phone.) Try not to lean on your device to keep you busy. Awkward silence in an elevator? Find a way to break it! Bored on the train? Start carrying a book to read, a notepad (yes, you can even jot down ideas for future tweets…) or a sketchbook. Ignoring those compulsions to check your phone is the first step to reconnecting with the real world.
Throw an unplugged party
Ok, we fully acknowledge that there is something lame about everyone putting their phones in a bowl or in the center of the table during a party...but we’re going to recommend it anyways. Why? Because in our experience, it actually leads to some engaging conversations that would have otherwise been derailed by YouTube videos! If you don’t want to fully commit to a device-free gathering, try it out at least for the duration of the meal. You’d be surprised where the conversation takes you when you can’t “just Google it.” Imagine a world where the food at dinner parties was eaten without being photographed? (We think it was called the '90s.)
Make your events hands-on
For those of you who can’t bring yourselves to impose rules, try fighting digital distraction with hands-on distraction. Some of the best parties we’ve been to are ones where people are actually making stuff together—whether it’s ornaments, pies, or a healthy debate over which miniseries is the all-time greatest. Try hosting a DIY holiday gift-making party, where you provide some raw materials and let the creative juices take over. (The point here is to just have fun...they definitely don’t have to be works of art.) Or if you want to get really old school, you could host a mid-century themed party where you remind guests that cell phones didn’t exist under the Kennedy administration. (Just be sure you have plenty of good LPs and fondue fired up to distract them.)
Volunteer, meet up, and reach out
Remember when we said it’s tricky to completely unplug yourself from the web? This is one of those times, because there really are a ton of resources available online that can help you find local events that matter to you. Check out nationalhomeless.org for a full directory of shelters and organizations near you that need volunteers, or connect with thousands of other organizations easily at serve.gov.
Or simply start asking around for opportunities, and keep an eye out for them in local and community news outlets. The America Let's Do Lunch campaign from Meals on Wheels is an awesome way to give back to the friendly seniors in your local community. Fancy yourself a handy person? Visit Habitat for Humanity and join others in helping to build or repair homes for families who need them. If you’re looking to just hang out and meet new people who share a common interest or are devoted to a similar cause, check out what’s buzzing at Meetup.
So whether it’s those you know and love or those you haven’t even met yet—how do you plan to reconnect with the people who matter to you this holiday season?