Social media can sometimes leave us feeling hollow, but there are apps out there that can help us maintain meaningful connections. (ABC South East SA: Kate Hill)
The realisation that we are living through a major global event has put many of us into a spin, and thrown our lives askew.
A third of the world is now under government-enforced lockdown, and many more are choosing to do their bit to ‘flatten the curve’ and isolate at home.
It’s understandable to think that this would put social events like Friday night drinks, Sunday roast dinners, brunches and games nights on hold, but we live in a technological age in which, where there’s a will, technology has a way.
So, here are five apps to help you stay connected and retain your social schedule until we all get back on our feet.
The Houseparty app allows video chats between a small group of friends. (Supplied: Epic Games)
Houseparty has been around since 2016, but this past month has surged to the top of the social networking charts. It’s a video chat app for up to eight people at a time.
In a throwback to the MSN days of old, you’re notified when a friend is online. You can begin to talk to them, or have them join a conversation you’re already in.
The video window sits above any other apps you may be using, so you can multitask important jobs unbridled, such as finding that meme you saw three hours ago without losing sight of your friend’s beautiful face.
On that note, you can screen share, leave ‘facemails’ (a video voicemail) and can play games with the group, too.
You’ve also got the option to keep your conversation private, or open to allow anyone in your contacts base to join in. It’s available on iOS, Android, Mac and PC.
2. Google Hangouts
The Google Hangouts app allows for large-scale video chats, useful for group meetings. (Supplied: Google)
Similar to Houseparty, Google Hangouts is another group video chat service. It uses your Google account, which you’ll have if you’ve ever opened a Gmail account or made a YouTube channel. You can have up to 50 people in a single call, and anyone you invite, Google account or not, can join via a link.
Google Hangouts sessions can be recorded, which is great for anyone holding or attending classes online. It can also link up to your calendar, allowing you to create regular Hangout events, taking the stress out of manually organising each week’s session.
If you have Chromecast, you can stream your hangout onto your TV, which is useful if multiple members of your household are going to be part of the chat, saving you all from crowding around your computer. It’s available on iOS, Android, Mac and PC.
If you’re struggling to justify spending time on mobile games now that you’re not commuting, this one’s for you.
Bunch is an app that lets you play mobile games with your friends. All you need to do is start the game via Bunch and text them a link.
A video chat of up to eight people sits along the top of your screen, so you can see their reactions live as you burn down their Minecraft house or serve a killer Scrabble chain.
The app hosts a number of its own games, such as Trivia and Charades (and for those of you who remember the Flappy Bird phenomenon, there is an almost identical multiplayer version of the game that comes with Bunch) and is compatible with some existing mobile games you might have already. The developers take requests and are always adding more. It’s available on iOS and Android.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
The location-sharing Zenly app launched a coronavirus update encouraging users to stay at home. (Supplied: Zenly)
For those of you with a competitive streak, (or with a competitive family member not taking physical distancing seriously enough) you’ll enjoy Zenly. It comes from the makers of Snapchat who have taken the Snap Map and, in a very timely manner, turned it on its head.
By broadcasting your location to your friends on Zenly, you can keep track of who is staying indoors.
Zenly awards points for abiding by lockdown measures and has a leaderboard that tracks which of your friends spends the most time at home.
Making quarantine into a game is a great way to give a more immediate sense of accomplishment for doing your distancing bit. It’s available on iOS and Android.
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
The Drawful game sees players draw a picture using their mobile phone for others to identify. (Supplied: Jackbox Games)
If your friendship group thrives on silliness, then Drawful is for you.
It’s an online multiplayer game in which one person is issued a directive to draw something ridiculous on their mobile screen (without the use of an eraser).
The others in the group then submit their wild guesses as to what the drawing is. The guesses are pooled and each person selects the one they think is correct.
For an added layer of absurdity, the drawer also submits a decoy guess to try to trip up the others. It’s available on iOS, Android, Mac and PC.