Going stir-crazy yet? You’re not alone. Millions of Americans are now under some form of shelter-in-place, lockdown or work-from-home arrangement that keeps them from socializing with their friends and loved ones.
Despite our mutual frustrations, all this quarantine business is happening for a reason. It’s all part of the effort to flatten the curve of infection and slow down the number of new COVID-19 cases. Tap or click to see a map to track them.
To cope with the isolation, people are finding creative ways to keep in touch with friends and family. And right now, the best way to meet online is with none other than group video chats. Here’s how you can say “hello” without having to go outside.
Video chatting on the rise
Video chat apps are nothing new, but this particular brand of software has gained a new life in the era of the coronavirus pandemic.
Between work-from-home arrangements requiring video meetings and online family get-togethers, there’s no shortage of ways to be social without ever having to open your door. Tap or click to see Komando.com’s editorial staff’s experience with working from home.
Apps like Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts are being used by people of all walks of life to stay in touch — and several have taken to social media to share the experience of being social in isolation.
I played my weekly poker game tonight with the same gang I always play with. Only we did it on an app and all talking on @zoom_us and it was a pretty great way to stay connected despite the distancing. Highly recommend.— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) March 15, 2020
Had a friend say they couldn’t make a zoom cocktail party because they have another one scheduled for that same time period so yes you can still feel unpopular during the apocalypse.— Isaac Fitzgerald🤞🏻🖤 (@IsaacFitzgerald) March 19, 2020
As you can see, it’s easy to meet up with some or all of your friends at once to ease the loneliness. All it takes are a couple of handy apps and a stable internet connection.
How can I use video chat to talk to my loved ones?
For starters, you’ll want to make sure you have a stable internet connection, a working camera and microphone, and a computer capable of running the software.
If you don’t have all of these, your best bet is to use your smartphone. It comes pre-installed with a camera and microphone array, as well as a wireless connection you can use if your Wi-Fi isn’t stable enough.
And with companies cutting data caps during the course of the outbreak, there’s never been a better time to take advantage of your data plan. Tap or click here to find out what the carriers and telecoms are offering customers.
Lastly, you’ll want to decide which app works the best for your group. Here are some of the most popular apps, as well as their strengths and weaknesses:
- Skype: The oldest program in the bunch, but available for free and backed by Microsoft’s support network. It does have a tendency to lag when connections are spotty and this can affect image and audio quality.
- Google Hangouts: Free to use and only requires your Google Account to sign up. Audio and Group Video calls are limited to 10 people on the free version of the program.
- Zoom: Allows for conferences of up to 100 people, but won’t integrate with your existing Google Account or social media. A dedicated video chatting program.
All three of these programs are available online for desktop users and mobile users can get them from both the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store.
Once you’ve downloaded the software, make sure you’ve asked your friends and family for their usernames and make sure everyone is on the same page about which software you’re using. If you have different video chatting apps, you won’t be able to talk to one another.
Don’t fear the lag
One final word of advice: Even the best video chatting apps feature some lag — especially considering how remote work traffic is dominating our local networks. Tap or click here to find out why.
If you notice you and the other people in your chat seem to be talking over one another, make sure to take a brief pause after you’re finished speaking. This will help mitigate the lag and make the conversation easier to follow.
Hopefully, everyone will continue to use these methods of connecting to stay in touch with family and friends long after this pandemic fades away. Crises aren’t permanent, but the bonds we share with our friends and family are unbreakable.