The holidays are fast approaching! This year, it’s important to think about how you’ll celebrate and socialize with friends and family. While COVID-19 may keep you from celebrating in-person, new technologies are making it easier than ever for us to stay connected.
With a variety of services and apps to help keep you connected, virtual socialization can be confusing and daunting at times. When you’re planning your virtual holiday gatherings this year, consider the following options for video calls along with some creative ideas for activities besides chatting.
Keep in Touch with Technology
In recent years, many apps and services have hit the market to help us connect virtually. The well-known Zoom has exploded in popularity, but it’s better suited for business use than casual social gatherings. However, it’s effective for large groups.
There are three plain apps used for casual video calling. FaceTime is the go-to app for Apple (i.e. iPhone, iPad) users. While FaceTim is easy to use, it doesn’t “play nice” with others. It’s incompatible with other platforms -you can only use it to contact those with Apple devices.
An emerging alternative to FaceTime is Google Duo. Not only can you make video calls with the app, but you can also leave messages. The major advantage of Duo is that it’s compatible across all platforms. The Duo app can be found on iOS and Android, plus it also works on your computer via Google Chrome. For larger groups and inclusivity, this is the best app available.
The once photo-centric Instagram has expanded to include many uses, one of which is video calling. Up to four people can be included on a call, and it’s user-friendly. Its new feature, Instagram Rooms, allows for many callers to take part in a chat. With the capability for drop-in settings, people can visit virtually when their schedule allows.
Ideas for Socializing Virtually
The great thing about technology is that you are not confined to structured video calls. Here are some ways to stay connected while participating in a fun, holiday-themed activity.
A great way to get into the holiday spirit is to bake cookies together virtually. Set up your phone, tablet, or laptop in the kitchen, call a friend or relative, and start baking! Making a tasty holiday treat is a fun way to have a conversation while having an activity to keep you occupied. The best part is that in the end, you can show off your fresh baked goods!
Even if you can’t break bread together physically, you can still share a holiday meal. One way to do this is to prepare a meal when on a video call, like baking holiday treats. For a fun twist, you can buy the other person’s meal. Either they order from a restaurant of choice and you pay them back via PayPal or Venmo, or surprise them by having pizza or Chinese food delivered right to door.
If food isn’t your thing, you can gather your friends or family together and host a virtual movie night. If watching with one or two friends, each of you can log into your personal accounts and start watching a movie (or TV show) at the same time. For larger groups, consider a drop-in movie night through Instagram Rooms or a similar app. You can set up a camera facing the TV screen, and people will be able to comment via chat during the film. This option offers flexibility as people can come and go as needed.
While distancing during the holidays can be difficult, it will be the “new normal” for this celebratory season. There are many ways to stay connected virtually – all you need is some creativity and flexibility!
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