By Cathy Anderson
Going to the footy is off the agenda, pub crawls are on hold and your social calendar is swirling through the U-bend. But there are plenty of ways to kick loneliness to the curb during these wild times of social distancing.
Businesses are using online meeting platforms to keep the country running, so why not use these to pump up your social life? Here ares our top tech hacks to inspire your next virtual group gathering.
Movie nights with friends
Re-creating a cinema experience with your friends is a tough one, but here’s where Netflix is stepping in.
Netflix Party is a Google Chrome extension you add for free to your laptop or desktop computer. It allows you to choose a movie and watch it in sync with friends remotely. You can add a group chat so there’s plenty of opportunity to swoon over Ryan Reynolds in 6 Underground, laugh and cry with Taylor Swift doco Miss Americana or get old retro belly laughs with Ghostbusters.
Cinemas are still open, but many film companies are starting to send new releases straight to streaming services, which means you can host your own ‘premieres’.
All-night dance party
There’s no better way to shake off global doom and gloom than by shaking your booty! First up, create a collaborative playlist with your friends using music streaming service Spotify. Share the playlist with your mates via a web link and everyone can add their own tunes. It’s a mixtape, baby!
Next up, set the time and date and then hook up your dance buddies via Skype. It’s been around since the Spanish flu (OK, maybe not that long) but Skype never lets you down — unless you have relatives who say ‘I can hear you but I can’t see you’ a lot.
Make sure everyone has an account, add them to the call and then hit the dial button. One of you can have the collaborative list playing through their laptop and everyone else can pump up the volume.
Online book club
Let’s get literary, people. Gather your read-a-holic friends and support small book retailers by ordering the same book online. Give yourselves time to read it, then gather around your devices for the Great Discussion.
Zoom is a super-popular cloud-based meeting platform for corporate meetings, webinars and training — and it’s being appropriated for social gatherings too.
You can join in a chat via desktop, laptop or smartphone (or big screen if you can airplay it to your telly) and have online chats with the group as well or private chats with some people on the call.
The only limitation is a 40-minute window for free use, so make your meeting quick or schedule one after the other. The free version of the app allows unlimited meetings.
Wine tasting nights
What better time to be sampling the great wines on offer from around Australia (and delivered straight to your door) via well-established companies including Vino Mofo, Tipple, Jimmy Bring, Naked Wines and, of course, your local wine store.
Gather your purchases, slice up some cheese and launch Facetime! Use the app for Group FaceTime sessions if you have iOS 12.1.4 on the iPhone 6s or later and for iPadOS on the iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, or iPad (5th generation) or later. Simply open the app and add up to 31 contacts, then start your call.
However, the FaceTime app is only available for Apple cult members, so if your crew includes an Android user or two, switch to Facebook Messenger, which can now handle up to 50 guests at one time. Simply create a group of winos, er, friends who appreciate a good drop, then hit the video button. Messenger’s filters can add a whole new level of hilarity. If you have wifi it’s free, otherwise the vid chat may eat into your phone’s data.
After-work drinks with colleagues
If your company has directed you to work from home, the ol’ 5pm pub gatherings on a Friday are a bit trickier to coordinate.
Many corporations use Slack, the darling of communications apps on the market. Slack introduced video chats for its paid plans which means 15 or more people can jump in on a call once work is done and take turns in sharing their screens.
The feature allows team members to draw on each other’s screens too — we’re thinking you could get pretty creative with party games!