Realistic Advice for Social Distancing with Your Friends


AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

There are ways to be with your friends and still stay safe

Okay, time for some real-talk. Many students have abandoned social distancing guidelines with their friends. Instagram and Snapchat posts of indoor, mask-less, crowded parties can be seen most weekends. Since there isn’t any indication that COVID-19 in Illinois is lightening up, we need to start thinking of ways to minimize risk as we head back to campus. 

I don’t want to shame anyone. Social distancing is really, really, really hard. It’s been six months since quarantine started, and that is a long time to go without being with your friends. I get it. 

But we need to think of social distancing in a new way, a way that considers the lives of others around us. We are only teenagers, and we will have the rest of our lives to party, date, and hang-out with our friends in the exact way we want to. In the future, we’ll look at these few months as unfortunate, but small in the grand scheme of things. 

So, yeah, this social distancing stuff is really important. We likely only have a few months left to go. A post-vaccine, safe world is probably coming—  we just have to stay strong and diligent in the meantime. 

Staying strong and diligent, however, doesn’t mean you can’t ever see your friends. There are ways to hang out and have fun together while minimizing risk. Here’s a few of them:

Be outside when you can. We still have a few months of relatively warm weather. There’s a few outdoor areas across the North Shore that are large, adult/police-free, and great for parties or other types of hangouts. According to the CDC, coronavirus particles disperse quicker in the open air, making outdoor hangouts safer than indoors

Pay close attention to local COVID numbers. Going to a party during a pandemic is bad overall, but going to a party in the midst of a COVID peak poses a greater risk than partying when numbers are low. Stay up-to-date on local news and follow the numbers. 

Try to form a “pod” with your closest friends. If you have one or two friends who you trust, consider forming a pod with them and their families. With everyone else, you will have to diligently social distance, but if you know that the risk is lower in your pod, you can let your guard down more. This is also nice during larger gatherings because being in a little group makes social distancing with everyone else easier. 

Be diligent about the little things. Shift away from someone who’s leaning towards you. Wash your hands frequently. Bring your own drinks to events. If you can’t bring your own, have someone pour whatever-it-is in a cup for you, have them step six feet away, and retrieve the cup. 

Try limiting the weekends you hang out with your friends to every other week. If you take a weekend off to catch up on homework, college applications, or hanging out with your family, you get a mini 2-week quarantine before seeing your friends again. Obviously, this only works if you don’t see other people and minimize going out over that time. 

Being careful about COVID feels a lot better than not being careful. There have been times when I haven’t been as cautious as I should, and the anxiety surrounding the two weeks afterward was awful. I urge everyone reading this to think about long-term consequences and make the smart choice — for yourselves and for those around you.