Making Connections Online

Making connections online
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By KATHLEEN MULROY

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, many of us are missing cherished in-person connections. So now might be the right time to try exploring online communities, where there’s something for just about every interest or hobby. Here are just a few of the possibilities.

Games

Whether you prefer cards or board games, it’s easy to play online. Websites like arkadium.com offer a variety of games that you can play with others or on your own. Most of the games are free, but to gain access to some of them you have to watch an advertisement first. There are also apps you can download on your smart phone to play games with others, like Words with Friends.

Book Clubs

Many public libraries have started up online book clubs. Or there’s Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Oprah Winfrey’s club, which has over 37,000 members, is known for sending her picks to the top of best-seller lists.

On the website, Winfrey offers videos in which she introduces each book and talks a bit about why she chose it. Then she sits down with the author for an in-depth, live-audience interview. Another large club is called, simply, Online Book Club. All of the conversations take place in forums. You can start a thread on any topic you like or join a discussion already in progress. There’s an app called Bookshelves that you can use to keep track of the books you’ve read.

The book of the week, month, and year are all crowd-sourced, decided by member voting. Hundreds of thousands of members make this one of the largest self-contained book clubs online.

For history buffs, there is The History Book Club. This Goodreads group has around 18,000 history fans from all over the world. They choose one book each month, while holding longer-running conversations about single books. Topics are wide-ranging. Not everyone always agrees in their discussions, but the golden rule is Always Be Respectful.

Gardening and Native Plants

In Idaho, the Sandpoint-based Kinnickinnick Native Plant Society offers online meetings and presentations, held on the fourth Saturday of each month (except in July and August). There’s a link to the meetings and presentations on KNPS’s website.

In Montana, Bozeman’s native plant society, Valley of Flowers, will hold all of its monthly programs for the foreseeable future online via Zoom. Click on the “What’s New” button for programming updates.

Cooking

These days, there are a wide variety of online cooking classes. One of them is MasterClass, which offers an annual paid membership to learn cooking skills from well-known chefs, the likes of Alice Waters and Gordon Ramsay.

Each class consists of about a dozen or so pre-recorded videos that range from 10-30 minutes, so you can learn at your own pace.

Another site, called Craftsy, offers more than 100 cooking classes online—from $10 each—in addition to crafting classes. The site offers courses for beginners as well as more in-depth classes, including cheese-making and bread-baking.

Public Speaking

Would you like to learn public speaking skills, or maybe just brush up on skills you already have? Then the non-profit called Toastmasters International might be for you. Now you can be involved from the comfort of your own home as an online participant. Go to their website and click on “Find a Club.”

Live and Streaming Shows

Organizations like the Helena Symphony and Myrna Loy Theater in Helena, as well as the Seattle Symphony, are finding new ways to share music, including allowing fans to attend free live broadcasts at home. Even New York’s infamous Village Vanguard offers tickets for streaming performances of world-class jazz musicians. Visit the venues’ websites to keep abreast of the online performances they have to offer.

Letter Writing

If you like to volunteer and enjoy writing letters, check out the nonprofit called Letters Against Depression. This organization gives people an opportunity to write hand-written letters of support to people suffering from depression.

Requirements for volunteers are simple: “A Hope and Support Letter Writer should have fair/decent handwriting and fair/good written communication skills.” The nonprofit asks for a one-page letter that is “upbeat, positive, and delivers the message that ‘You are not alone’ and ‘You matter.’” ISI