We might’ve been heading that way already, but the coronavirus pandemic has caused us to spend even more time online. While you want to monitor your screen time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says unwinding and staying connected with people are two of the best ways to help your mental health.
It seems like Zoom has been the go-to platform for conference calls and virtual happy hours, but here are seven other apps to keep you connected with friends and family in times of physical distancing.
Houseparty is a video chatting app that allows group calls for up to eight people at a time. Similar to other social platforms, Houseparty links with your existing phone contacts and social media friends before prompting you to send friend requests.
Get notified when your friends are “in the house” and ready to have a conversation. There’s the option to create a private party for your friends to join — you can lock the room so no one else can join — or you can leave it unlocked for others to “crash.” Friends can also choose from several free games to play.
Netflix Party is a Google Chrome extension that lets you virtually gather your friends to binge-watch movies and TV shows on Netflix. It synchronizes video playback and adds a group chat function as a sidebar, perfect for commentary. Users must log in from separate Netflix accounts.
Chat app Discord is geared toward video gamers to connect with others and add them to a friends list. Players can chat on a custom server and an open video channel that makes it easy to join together for a game. There are thousands of Discord servers for other interests, such as music or photography, for those not into video games. The app is free and available for any device.
WhatsApp is a popular app that uses your phone’s internet connection instead of a cellular plan to message friends and family, even if they’re in another country. The Facebook-owned company recently announced that it’s increasing its group calling limit from four people to eight people.
With Watch2Gether, you can sync online with friends to watch videos, listen to music or go shopping through Amazon. Although it doesn’t work with any of the major subscription-streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, users can create rooms to share content from sites like YouTube, SoundCloud and Vimeo. No registration required.
Rave is another streaming app that lets you chat with friends while watching the same video. Sync with platforms like YouTube and Reddit, or upload videos to Dropbox and Google Drive for a nice movie night. With RaveDJ, artificial intelligence creates mixes and mashups of user-selected songs.
Quarantine Together is the dating app for these strange times. It starts with texting a daily reminder to wash your hands and keep a safe distance from others. After confirming that you indeed washed your hands or stayed home, then you’re matched with a date at 6 p.m. Next comes a private text message between you and your match. A video chat link is sent after 20 minutes into the conversation.
Quarantine Together also shows frontline workers some love. After each match, users receive a feedback survey that includes a GoFundMe link to help provide healthcare workers with masks and other personal protective equipment.
Which apps are you using to stay connected while the stay-at-home order is in effect? Drop them in the comments below.