If there’s one thing we can all agree on during these harrowing times, it’s that we miss being able to get in touch with friends. Many students have hardly even seen their schoolmates outside of distance learning since the pandemic started. We all know about websites like Zoom and Google Hangouts that allow for talking with friends, but what about recreational activities you can do with them? As it turns out, there are many online options available, many of which have been developed in the past few months.
If you want to watch your favorite show or movie with friends, there are multiple ways to do so. The Amazon Prime video service has a new free feature called Watch Party. Essentially, viewers can start a group and invite others. Watch Party allows everyone to watch any film or TV show simultaneously, and also provides a chat tab on the side that can be used to send messages to anyone watching with you. A more extensive way to watch things with others is Teleparty. Formerly called Netflix Party, this free to download extension has been updated to allow users to watch content on a wider variety of streaming platforms, including Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and Disney+ (provided, of course, that each person has an account with the streaming service in question). It works similarly to Amazon’s Watch Party in that it allows viewers to synchronize the video they watch and has a chat at the side.
Another service that can be used if you want to do something with your friends is the popular Houseparty app. It can be used either on a mobile device or on a computer. You can add friends and talk with up to 8 people at once, making it somewhat similar to the FaceTime app that is automatically installed on many iPhones. However, what separates it from FaceTime is that it goes a step further: you can play games with friends while talking with them, ranging from Trivia to Karaoke. The list of possible games is somewhat limited, but is also always expanding.
Instagram has also come out with a new Co-Watching feature. Basically, this new addition lets you browse through your Instagram account with your friends over video chat. Any person in the video call can choose to share their screen, and then every member of the call can look through your liked, saved, or suggested photos and videos. With this feature, a routine scroll through the app can now become a highlight in your day, allowing friends to once again smile and laugh together.
Mobile games that can be played with friends had been rather popular before the pandemic, but are now increasing massively in use. They’re a fun way to connect and compete with friends you haven’t seen in a while. There are countless free apps that allow for this. One such app is Psych!, a game where you try to find the real answers to prompts on topics like obscure movie plots, random facts, and arcane words, all while writing fake answers in an attempt to fool your friends. Another popular app is Uno, an online version of the famous card game. There are multiple different game modes available on the app so that you never get bored, including the original Classic Mode, as well as new additions like 2v2 Mode or Room Mode. You can play alone with an AI player, or you can invite friends to a match. The app allows you to communicate with them either by typing in a chat or by simply talking. There are websites that can be accessed by computer or by phone that also provide free multiplayer opportunities. Kahoot is one example. It existed long before the pandemic (as many students know), but now, more and more people are using it to have fun with friends by creating silly quizzes. Another enjoyable multiplayer website is skribbl.io. Skribbl.io is a game where each player gets a word and has to try to get the other players to guess it before time runs out by drawing it. You can play in a public match with other random players, or you can create a private room with up to 12 people. To make things more personalized and interesting, you can also add your own custom words to the randomly generated word bank.
Although connecting online with friends isn’t ideal, it has become necessary as more and more people are feeling this need to maintain their relationships with friends after being in isolation for so long. There are many other games and activities that the internet has to offer, but hopefully these suggestions will help to make this strange time in our lives feel less frightening and daunting.