Using technology to bring us closer under these exceptional circumstances
It’s already upon us, and without a doubt, this is going to be one Holiday season with a difference. With the emphasis on being together and enjoying old traditions, tech isn’t always the first thing on our minds when we think of the Holidays. But let’s face it – this year the internet has been a lifesaver. From allowing us to work remotely to keeping us entertained and -most importantly of all – connected, 2020 was the year we realized just how truly thankful we are for technology!
Even the long-awaited Anti-Trust report, advertising boycotts, company walkouts, and the release of movies like The Social Dilemma and Coded Bias were not able to stop 2020 being a record-breaking year for Big Tech.
We at Freedom are hopeful for a better, more humane future in technology, and this year we reinforced our commitment to helping people enjoy a happier and healthier relationship with their devices. But we’re also all about balance, and making the most of the wonderful ways tech can improve our lives. That’s why we’re happy to bring you 5 suggestions to help you connect with and enjoy the things that matter most this holiday season.
1. Get connected
While video calls have been around for a while now, this year they’ve really come into their own, and the Zoom boom doesn’t look set to slow any over the holiday season. If you’re taking part in a virtual gathering, make sure that there is a designated host and, for larger meetings, it’s a good idea to have someone volunteer to help out with any connection issues, and make sure any less tech-savvy members of the group are briefed in advance. If you’ve yet to decide on a tool, the best for large gatherings are Google Meet or Zoom, who have lifted their 40-minute limit especially for the occasion.
Whether you’re alone or with friends or family, getting outside for some fresh air and exercise, and some safely socially distanced contact with other people will boost your mood and help you feel less disconnected from the rest of the world.
Now, we highly recommend giving yourself the time off that you deserve to rest and recharge, but we wouldn’t be productivity experts if we didn’t see the silver lining in happening to be alone for the holidays! Yes, that most precious of gifts, time – alone and interrupted – is the perfect opportunity to start that new creative endeavor you’ve been trying to get started on since forever. Whether you choose writing, painting, gardening, making music, or decluttering your home, spending the day connecting to yourself and your creativity will surely spark joy. And that’s definitely something worth celebrating!
However you’re celebrating this year, good food enjoyed in good company –online or otherwise– is enough to make the day feel special and help you feel closer together.
2. Cook up some comfort
Talk to anyone about the Holidays and the first thing they’ll usually mention is the food! And the eating is not the only pleasure involved – cooking can be a great group activity, and those cherished recipes that have been passed down through generations offer an extra way to tune in to old traditions.
Even if you can’t gather in person, you can still cook together via video call. In fact, you may have already discovered this year that pottering around your kitchen makes for a more natural chat and helps alleviate “Zoom fatigue”.
If you want to add a bit of friendly competition and keep old traditions alive, a recipe swap could be just the thing. A couple of days before, each household draws an old favorite dish out of a hat, to be cooked on the day.
And if you’ve had just about enough of feeling at home this year and fancy throwing tradition out of the window, that’s ok too. This year is the perfect one to try out new recipes, or simply order take out if you feel like it – you’ll be giving yourself a much-needed break and supporting local businesses!
If you’re not used to hosting and it’s your first time cooking a Thanksgiving dinner, there are plenty of apps and online resources to guide you. The Jennie-O site has some foolproof step-by-step recipes, while the Tasty app (available on iOS and Android) allows you to choose your menu and order all the ingredients in just a few taps!
However you’re celebrating this year, good food enjoyed in good company –online or otherwise– is enough to make the day feel special and help you feel closer together. After all, as the Italians say: “the small kitchen makes the home feel big!”
3. Rework those traditions
One of the things we love most about the holidays is that feeling of tradition and familiarity – and you needn’t give up on them this year! If you normally dress up and decorate your home, don’t be shy about it this year. A few well-placed decorations and changing into something other than pajamas will bring a sense of occasion to those online gatherings. If grandparents are missing out on seeing their grandchildren this year, get the kids to create festive posters to hang on the wall while you video chat. And if you haven’t had the time to make your own, why not download a lovely holiday-themed virtual background?
If you normally all sit down to watch a movie after dinner then you can still do so with a “watch party”. The Teleparty extension for Chrome and Opera works with many streaming services, while The Disney+ and Amazon Prime have their own group watch features. And sports fans can enjoy watching the traditional holiday games together using the Yahoo Sports app.
If you’ve got younger guests attending, then they will be thrilled at the opportunity to do some gaming! Everyone can participate in old favorites like hearts and bridge on Trickster Cards, and for some traditional board game fun, Houseparty has many options.
And just because the gathering is virtual doesn’t mean you can’t take that traditional group photo!
In a year that’s been exceptionally challenging, the true meaning of the holidays will be at the forefront of our minds. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the events of the past 12 months, and to be thankful for all that we do have.
4. Give Back
In a year that’s been exceptionally challenging, the true meaning of the holidays will be at the forefront of our minds. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the events of the past 12 months, and to be thankful for all that we do have. The holiday season is traditionally a time of year when we help those less fortunate than ourselves, and while you may not be able to volunteer in a local soup kitchen this year, there are plenty of other ways to help out from the comfort of your own home.
An upside to not being able to travel for the holidays this year is that you can use some of the money you would normally spend on that and put it towards a good cause!
Great Nonprofits lets you search for organizations by category and area, so you can find one close to you and make a real difference in your community. At Freedom, we have chosen to donate to 2 local organizations, TABLE and the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, which work to provide healthy meals to hundreds of thousands of people facing hunger every day.
It’s been a tough year financially for many, but there are some great apps out there that show you that every little helps. ShareTheMeal is a charity app created by the United Nations World Food Programme with which you can donate a minimum of 50 cents (the amount needed to feed a child for one day) with the tap of a button. You’ll also see where your donation goes and who you’re helping. Freerice is another app from the WFP where you don’t even need to hand over a penny! You simply play trivia games on the app, and sponsors will take care of the donations. Not only will you be giving back, but you’ll be gaining knowledge too – and that’s a priceless gift!
5. Close the Gap
While it’s easy to forget for those of us who are connected, as life as moved online more than ever this year, there are roughly 20 million American households that can’t afford internet access. A report by Common Sense Media found that as many as 30 percent of K-12 students don’t have the tools necessary to engage in remote learning, while around half of seniors are without broadband at home.
The Digital Divide is a problem that existed long before the pandemic, but broadband access and tech literacy have become crucial to living and participating in society in 2020. You can make a difference directly in your community by making yourself available to help those who may be struggling with tech issues, and, if you have elderly neighbors who are going to be alone for the holidays you can cook and safely deliver a home-cooked meal and invite them to your own virtual gathering. This is a great opportunity for the younger generations to connect with their elders, so encourage teens and young adults in your family to get involved!
There are also many organizations in the US working to narrow the Digital Divide, and you can help by making a donation, volunteering or donating old computer equipment.
It may not be how you imagined it, but we hope that you can still enjoy this special time of year by making the most of what we do have. Whether you’re spending it alone, with friends or family, online or off, we at Freedom wish you a safe and happy holiday season! ✨