The saying “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” is ringing true right now, and not just on my ’80s ballads playlist. With a worldwide pandemic surging and social lockdowns in place, virtual meet-ups are becoming more and more popular as we are distanced from other humans. Despite the fact that my busy adult life means I get together with girlfriends on a roughly quarterly basis, now that I can’t have it, it’s like an itch I can’t scratch. I miss my parents like crazy, and I want to see my siblings. As much as I love my husband and kiddos, these walls can feel like they’re closing in on me.
So what can we do in a time like this? I’ve seen teachers doing virtual story times with their students, zoos and museums offering virtual tours, and fitness studios offering at-home workouts for members and non-members alike. Where I have participated in the above, I have found the most joy in virtual meet-ups with friends and family. I’ve had happy hours with my girlfriends and celebrated my brother’s birthday (complete with singing and cake). Want to connect but not sure where to start? Here are some options.
Virtual Meet-Ups on Zoom
By far the most common, Zoom is the perfect place to host your latest quarantine coffee talk. Once relegated to work-related conference calls, a Zoom account is free to set up and is required to host a meeting but is not necessary to be a participant.
Zoom is available on desktop or downloadable app and is Android and iOS compatible. To join the meeting, all you need is the meeting ID or link. While “Zooming” I prefer to view my screen in “gallery view” where everybody has their own screen tile. Zoom can host up to 100 participants with 49 visible at any given time. With a basic/free account and virtual meet-up of three or more people, your meeting will time out after 40 minutes.
Virtual Meet-Ups on Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts for video conferencing is available as an Android and iOS app as well as a web-based Chrome extension. It is free to use and can host 25 participants at a time with 10 visible at once. There is no time limit on Hangouts so you can meet as long as you want. Also, if you’re a devotee of Gmail and Google Calendar, you might find this platform a little more familiar.
Virtual Meet-Ups on FaceTime
With so many options it’s easy to overlook the one right in your pocket. FaceTime is built right into your Mac, iPhone, or iPad and ready to use for groups. The easiest way to plug into this option is to open your group text in the “Messages” app, expand the info at the top (where the photos are) and hit the FaceTime button. Then just sit back and wait. You can add up to 32 participants in a group FaceTime call, however they all need to have an iOS device.
While Netflix binges can bring escape and texting is a great way to discuss just how crazy Tiger King is, there is just something about seeing the face of your loved ones in real time. Grab your phone, tablet or computer and find a comfortable place to sit. Pour a hot mug of coffee, uncork that wine, crack that beer. You can banish the kids to iPad land or pull them onto your lap. Turn off the news and treat yourself to some laughter and human connection through virtual meet-ups. I promise you’ll feel a little closer and a lot better when you log off.