Jonathan Kanter is featured in this Seattle Met article about Virtual Happy Hours.
Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Virtual Happy Hours
Forget the crosstalk and poor Wi-Fi signals. The psychological benefits are vital for some.
By Benjamin Cassidy
At exactly 5pm on a hump day early in self-quarantine, I shut my laptop, rose from my kitchen table, and snagged a bottle of Bulleit from the shelf. I plucked a friend’s gift—a whiskey glass that features Mt. Rainier topographically blown into its base—from a cabinet and filled it to the peak with bourbon. Then I grabbed my phone. A few taps and scrolls later, I was toasting that gracious pal and a handful of other high school friends on a coordinated virtual happy hour call.
With in-house dining service curtailed under governor Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have been forced to recreate that “it’s five o’clock somewhere” vibe by imbibing with others via video chat. Whether they’re held on Zoom or Houseparty or FaceTime, these digital gatherings with friends and coworkers have, for some, infused a dash of fun into quarantine’s novel cocktail of loneliness, isolation, and depression. That doesn’t mean they feel normal. Our apps swap out tables and stools for two-dimensional shapes that may or may not fit everyone’s head (know your angles, people), and missed connections now evoke poor Wi-Fi signals rather than failures to exchange digits.
Yet, video cocktail hours can be beneficial for those who normally enjoy reveling in a post-work pint with their best friend or Bob From Sales, according to Jonathan Kanter, a clinical psychologist who teaches at the University of Washington. “If you were the kind of person who looked forward to Friday evenings, going out to happy hour with your friends,” says Kanter, “to the extent that you can recreate [that] in any way possible, such that the loss isn’t complete, that’s really important for staving off depression right now.”
While no studies have measured the effects of these video happy hours quite yet (stay tuned, though), some previous research related to remote socializing suggests that they’re indeed worthwhile. A longitudinal study in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry assessed the impact of different technologies on older adults’ likelihood of developing depressive symptoms. “Using Skype to Beat the Blues” found that, in a nationally representative cohort, “users of video chat had approximately half the probability of depressive symptoms at two-year follow-up compared to non-users and users of email, social media, and instant messaging.” And frequently hospitalized children with chronic illnesses have used video chats to preserve connections with peers and adjust to their “new normal.”
Read the entire article here.