Self-isolation, while crucial in helping to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic and to support the health-care system, is by nature, very lonely. As we settle into the new norm of showing up to work meetings in pyjamas, live-streaming workouts and experimenting with DIY hair masks, staying connected is as important as ever. Here are a few of our favourite apps and platforms for group chats, playing games together and everything in between.
Best For: Work Chats
If you’re living the WFH-life, you’re likely already familiar with Zoom. The free video conferencing platform (there’s a 40 minute limit but you can upgrade with paid plans) can be used on any device, is able to sync meetings to your calendar and allows for screen sharing to make collaborating easier. Bonus: A virtual background feature obscures any sleepy roommate from walking through your presentation and lets you pretend you’re anywhere else but here. With the ability to host up to 1,000 participants and 10,000 viewers, it’s also primed for after work hours, from birthday parties to virtual raves. On Skype, you can set up free video conference calls that anyone can join, even if they’re not on the platform.
Best For: Chats With Friends and Family
For daily catch-ups with your BFFs and family, there are plenty of ultra user-friendly options for more intimate calls. Google Duo offers face-to-face with up to eight people (works for both Android and iOS), while FaceTime for iOS can accommodate groups of up to 32. You can also video chat up to four people at a time on WhatsApp (it’s the most popular messaging app with two billion users worldwide). Instagram recently launched Co-Watching, a new feature that allows you to view posts together with friends over video chat – who said scrolling was solitary?
Best For: A Movie Marathon
It’s the perfect time to binge-watch everything on your list, but you don’t have to do it alone. The Chrome extension Netflix Party allows you to watch any show from the streaming service with friends online. The synchronized video playback pauses, plays and stops for everyone (ideal for snack and washroom breaks) and there’s even a group chat feature. Need suggestions? Catch up on all the Love is Blind drama or Feel Good, the new series co-created and starring Canadian comedian Mae Martin.
Best For: Game Night
Is puzzle fatigue a thing? Stay social with Houseparty, an app that offers free video calling in addition to trivia games and old favourites like pictionary. You can also play games remotely with Jackbox Games – just connect on any video conferencing platform and share screens. With free voice and text chat (video is also an option), Discord has been the go-to for all things gaming-related and what better way to dive into the Internet’s latest obsession.
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