Keeping Connected: Tips and Apps to Hold the Community Together


Keeping Connected: Tips and Apps to Hold the Community TogetherA lifetime full of frequent moves has prepared me for this very moment in time: staying connected with friends and loved ones when you can’t physically share the same space. Since Tennessee is my fifth state to call home, I have perfected the art of staying in touch and finding ways to feel close to loved ones that are far away.

Here are my family’s favorite ways to keep connected during social distancing:

Keep Talking

Whether you’re chatting on the phone or texting or using Facebook messenger, use your favorite communication style to keep in touch with your loved ones. I feel like we’re in that week between Christmas and New Year’s when I barely know what day it is, so maybe make a calendar alert to check on at least one person daily. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of this, and it feels so nice to be remembered.

We’ve been using letter writing to practice my first grader’s handwriting for a few months now, and we’re continuing for the time being. Checking the mail is a reason to go outside, and seeing my kiddos get their own mail has been such fun. As long as we’re all healthy and the CDC doesn’t recommend we stop, we’ll continue our letter writing (but may start spraying our mail with Lysol, just in case. I’m only half kidding, y’all.)

Digitally, technology has given us boundless gifts to stay connected. Here are some of our favorite apps and ideas for how to stay connected:

Communication Apps

  • Whatsapp
  • Zoom
  • Google Hangout
  • Skype
  • Marco Polo


Want to play board games with friends but maintain social distancing? There’s an app for that!

  • Words with Friends
  • Scrabble
  • Draw Something
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Hearthstone
  • Uno & Friends
  • Ludo King

But be warned, y’all; my mom called me to tell me to take my turn in Words with Friends! #Accountability

Streaming Together…Apart

Netflix and Google have partnered to let us watch movies together with our loved ones from across the distance, whether it’s next door or on the other side of the country. You can learn more here.

Even if we don’t utilize Google and Netflix, we can plan watch parties with our families anyway. Everyone agree to sit down and begin at the same time, then have a video conference after to discuss. With many new shows and movies being added early to streaming services. (Thank you, Disney+, for adding Frozen 2 and Onward early. I can’t wait to watch Onward April 3!)


Host a virtual book club! My (typically in person) book club is going digital this month. We already had a Facebook group where we can post polls to choose a book. You can either use one of the communication apps or group FaceTime, or just do the whole book club by writing in the Facebook group.

Here are some of my favorite books I’ve read lately. Bonus: I got them as ebooks from the library, so you don’t have to spend money or leave your house!

  • Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell
  • Searching for Sylivie Lee, Jean Kwok
  • Harry’s Trees, Jon Cohen
  • Before I Go, Colleen Oakley
  • The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane, Kelly Harms
  • The Book of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henriquez
  • The Scent Keeper, Erica Bauermeister

Missing out on live events?

Many artists are giving free live concerts via technology. Even Garth Brooks is on board! Since I didn’t make it to his concert here last year, I’m stoked to get to see him live — digitally, at least. Follow your favorite groups on social media to see the hows and whens of these pandemic spurred digital concerts.

Keep learning (and not just whatever you’re having to teach your kids!). Harvard and other universities are hosting free online classes. EdX and Coursera are great resources to find free courses from universities.

Workout Together

Although gyms and studios have closed, many are still offering classes and guidance. Because my family utilized the local YMCA, we follow them and have been doing some of their at home workouts. Try following your favorite gym or studio to see what they’re posting. If you’re having trouble finding something like what you’d like, try searching Facebook or Instagram. These have shown to be two popular live work ‘in’ class locations for my feed!

Social Media

Before the pandemic, we were all trying to cut back. Now it’s helping keep us connected. Whether you prefer Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, social media has given us the gift of staying connected. It’s helping show me how parts of the country I’ve lived in are handling this, as well as seeing how industries aside from mine are coping. I’ve seen lots of event professionals, stage hands, performers, and teachers posting. I’m grateful for this window into their lives, and seeing their stories only increases my desire to help.

We’re all in this together. We can stay connected within our communities, whether the distance is long or far. Stay strong, friends.

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Christine Derr
Hey, y’all! I’m an adventurous wanderer who put down roots here in East Tennessee back in 2014. My little family moved here from the wilds of suburban Alaska in 2014. We love exploring Knoxville and the surrounding areas, especially the Smoky Mountains. I’m a freelance writer and teacher who loves looking at the mountains when my nose isn’t in a book. I’m a mom to two bookish kids, a wildly clingy dog, two cats, and a fish I’d be in trouble for not mentioning. Since becoming a mom, I’ve been able to add Lincoln Log architect, LEGO contractor, and mediator to my resume. I’ve always been a bit of a jack of all trades, as I’ve been a tutor, teacher, circus instructor, bookseller, amateur baker and, of course, writer. I remind myself of this as I tell my kid not to sit on my other kid’s head while stopping the dog from chasing the cat and the other cat from jumping on top of the fish tank. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and am currently pursing my Master of Fine Arts while keeping all these creatures who live in my house alive. I survive on coffee, writing fiction, reading, Disney, and snuggles. You can read more of my work at


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