With more people staying at home, there’s never been more of a need to connect with each other digitally. New options are springing up, and older apps are getting a surge in new visitors. Start with what most of your social network is on (such as Facebook or Google Hangouts), or what is easier for your family to connect to (maybe Facetime on IOS). After that, explore some of these other new fun online options or visit some old favorites.
Video Chats: Facebook Group Chat, Google Hangout, Facetime, Skype, etc.
Before we dive into all fun ways to connect digitally, let’s cover the basics. Take your pick of the most popular video chat apps online to stay connected with your friends and family. The most popular and easiest to use are Facebook Video, Google Hangouts, Facetime, Skype and Zoom.
Depending on the app there are fun functionalities that can be added. Here are some things you can try:
- Fun Filters (Facebook video on mobile and Facetime offer these)
- Dynamic background options (here are some for Zoom)
- Play games over video chat: Pictionary and Charades are great options
Play interactive games: Houseparty app, classics like chess, or board games like Catan, Monopoly, Clue, etc.
Houseparty is an app that has been around since 2016 but is experiencing a resurgence. Once you log into the app you can view what friends are available to chat, and they can immediately start chatting with you as well. You can also play games with up to eight people, including trivia and heads up. For more information on how to set up and use Houseparty this is a great walkthrough.
Some old apps are back. Remember “Words with Friends”? The scrabble-like game is back with Words with Friends 2 and even has saved all your past games if you played the first version. There are also other classic games you can play with each other to stay in touch. Chess with friends gives you the opportunity to learn or advance your chess game.
Boardgame night can now be done digitally. There are two primary ways to play: playing on a mobile device or desktop browser. Almost anything you’ve played is available, from classic board games like Monopoly and Clue to newer games like Catan (Settlers of Catan). I would recommend exploring the mobile app first for your favorites, although most require a nominal payment. The browser versions I have tried are clunky, although most a free.
Take live fitness classes together (available on youtube and through studios)
There is something about being in a live class that connects you with the instructor and participants and motivates you to work harder. If you are into dance cardio, one great free option is 305 Fitness on Youtube. They host live video classes twice a day where you can interact via chat with the instructor and participants. Some classes even have a post-Zoom Happy Hour that you can join and meet each other. Peloton’s app, which has a variety of classes such as strength and yoga, also holds multiple live classes a day where you can get shout outs depending on how many classes you’ve done.
You can check out my review of the Peloton app and other favorite apps/studios that are available online here.
There are some great studios on Instagram Live that are currently offering classes for free (although some ask for donations if financially able). Here are my favorites:
There are a ton of studios that have moved to offer online classes with paid subscriptions or charge anywhere from $5-20 a class, check out my favorites here. If you are comfortable sharing your video, some instructors will even give you modifications and call outs. It’s extremely motivating and makes you feel more accountable.
Find ways to connect around your regular routine: cook together or share recipes, watch TV together (Netflix Party), start or join a book club
Cooking is one activity I’ve really embraced while being home more often. Sharing recipes with my friends and family is a great way to connect with them. You can start something as simple as an email chain, private Facebook group, or shared google document.
Watching TV can be social now. Netflix developed an app (Netflix Party) which allows you to watch their programming while chatting with others. It adds another element to just “watching tv”, especially if you have friends or family that are closely following the same series you’re into.
Another great option to be social around your regular routine is by reading. You can start a virtual book club with your friends or family, and then discuss the latest novel via video chat. There are also plenty of digital book clubs you can join. This article from Time has a list of 10 virtual book clubs and tips on your starting your own.
Even though many of us are not used to staying home so often, there are so many ways we can still connect with each other digitally. Start off with basic video chats, then look into some fun options to enhance your conversations. Filters, backgrounds, games and sharing your daily activities are all good ways to socialize online.