House Party app.
House Party app.
Image: House Party

It feels as if we have been social distancing forever though, realistically, it’s only been about two months or so here in South Africa. Now, in Level 4 of lockdown, we still have quite a way to go before we can see the fam or the homies. But, never fear, big tech is here. Covid-19 is showing us people are quick to adapt and adapt to apps they will. Despite the bad rep that tech sometimes has (you know, privacy issues), there’s one thing it certainly has got right — now more than ever — and that is keeping us connected.

You know Skype, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp and Slack but, as tech evolves, so too do apps. These are the ones you need to download now. Happy virtual mingling!

1. ZOOM

Primarily intended for work conferencing, this remote video/audio app has seen an impressive uptick in downloads. It needn’t be reserved for work, though. The first 40 minutes of chit-chat are free (which is great for that colleague or family member who tends to go on forever) and it also has cool features like Virtual Backgrounds and Touch Up My Appearance. Connect anywhere, anytime, on any device.

2. HOUSE PARTY

House Party is such a fun (and free) app. It has been around for a while but, for obvious reasons, has recently seen a surge in downloads. Engage in face-to-face chats with up to eight friends who are “in the house”. You can lock the house if you don’t want randos who you were too polite to reject joining in and drop in on friends who are already having a party. The app allows you to sneak in at any time, wave or even ghost your friends (although that seems seriously beside the point).

House Party allows you to connect with up to 8 friends at one time.
House Party allows you to connect with up to 8 friends at one time.
Image: House Party

Play your own tunes in the background, grab a glass of wine and play a game with your friends – the app offers those too (Heads Up, Trivia and even a Quick Draw guessing game) – and enjoy your virtual house party without the mess.

3. NETFLIX PARTY

Okay, this is assuming you have Netflix – which, if you don’t, you need to get pronto (what else are you doing, if not binge-watching dystopian docuseries?). Netflix Party allows users to simultaneously (and remotely) stream a movie or series together – as if you were going to the movies or having movie night at your home – while letting you live chat about what’s going on because there is always that one person who asks questions throughout. It’s free and works as a Google Chrome extension on laptops and desktops. This is another way for friends and family to share in the newfound luxuries of connectedness and brief escapism. 

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