What did we do this weekend? We had friends over for drinks, others over for dinner and met others for Sunday lunch. Virtually, obviously.
With all of us making an effort to socially distance ourselves from others in order to reduce the spread of Coronavirus, we were concerned about how we'd stay in touch with friends and family – to keep that buzzing social life going and to keep an eye on an elderly relative.
So we got on to social apps (thank goodness we've got teenagers in the house), and soon discovered that their ability to help us keep in touch across the globe (never mind across the street, particularly when advice suggests we avoid face-to-face contact), was amazing. And you can do it too. No need for (grand)parents to feel they're missing you (although they may need help with set up) or you to miss out on your usual Saturday night dinner dates.
So whether this is your first step into the world of social media and video messaging, or you're wondering what other options might be out there besides the obvious WhatsApp and FaceTime, we're here to share our favourite finds.
For more advice on protecting yourself, and your loved ones, from Coronavirus. As well as tips on staying connected, head over to our health and beauty hub page.
1. WhatsApp video call
Once upon a time a webcam was the only way to get involved in a live video chat, but thanks to WhatsApp it's now possible to see you friends and family anywhere, and at any time. Providing they have WhatsApp, that is.
Simply download the app from your smartphone's app store (it's the big 'A' for the uninitiated – talking to you, dad), sync your phone number and click on the symbol of the video recorder in the top right hand corner for easy video calling. Or, if you create a group chat, you can make the most of video calling more than one person at a time – great news if your friends or family are spread out all over the place.
And if you don't like the idea of holding your phone in front of your face, or think your arm might get tired, download WhatsApp Desktop.
2. Facebook Messenger
If you're in the US, chances are you're not quite experiencing the WhatsApp love affair us Europeans are. So, why not rely on Facebook Messenger to keep in contact with friends and family, instead?
Much like WhatsApp, you can video call friends and family one-on-one, or as part of a larger group. Plus with the option to mute your mic, this option might be slightly better if you're looking to host a virtual pub quiz, or something similar.
3. Netflix Party
If you're self isolating, you may be excited to learn that Netflix have launched an extension designed to help you stay in contact with friends and family. That's right, Netflix Party allows you to sync your screen with your friends, so you can watch shows at the same time. Plus, a specially designed group chat allows you to chat while you watch.
So, whether you're binge watching Line of Duty or Love is Blind, but don't want to feel alone while doing so, or if you were mid-watching a show with someone else pre-self isolation, there's no need to stop now. Here's how to install it:
1. To install Netflix Party, find Netflix Party on the Chrome Web Store, click "Add to Chrome" to finish installing Netflix Party.
2. Go to Netflix's website. Choose any show you would like to watch and start playing the video.
3. To create your party, click on the red "NP" icon located next to the address bar. Then click "Start Party" to get the party started, and share the party URL to invite friends.
4. To join a party click on the party URL, which will redirect to Netflix's website. Then click on the "NP" button next to the address bar, and you should automatically join the party.
- Don't have Netflix? Find out what the hype's all about in our guide to the best streaming devices.
4. Enjoy Skype dinner dates
Got a long distance lover? Or want to catch up over food and wine with a friend? Enter the Skype dinner date. The original video call platform, Skype is available on desktop, or as an app.
Simply set up a time to catch up over food, decide what's on the menu – it's even cuter if you cook the same thing – and sit down for fine wine and good time.
5. Go head-to-head on Xbox Live
Prefer to connect with friends while shooting zombies? We don't really get it, but you do you.
With Xbox Live, it's super easy to stay in touch with friends and family while sharing your love for video games. Simply pick up a headset, connect online and chat with your nearest and dearest while you save the world from impending doom.
6. Or PlayStation Plus
And if you're team PlayStation, there are similar options available to your thanks to PlayStation Plus. Pick up a three month membership to keep in contact with friends and family and enjoy everything from Fifa 2020 to Fortnite.
7. Have a (virtual) houseparty
Houseparty is kind of like Skype, except you can invite up to eight people to join the party at a time. This is great news if you're part of a wider group of friends spread all over the place, or if you're actually trying to achieve a remote houseparty experience. Blast the music, grab the bevs and you're away.
8. Get involved in a LiveStream
If you're on Instagram, chances are you're familiar with a LiveStream. And while you've probably only ever seen the celebrities, or influencers, you follow hosting them, Instagram Lives can be a great way to keep in contact with friends and family. Or even with complete strangers, should you choose to.
From dance parties, group workouts and cooking tutorials, to make-up demonstrations, musical performances and more, we'v witnessed some really inventive uses of the Instagram Live Stream over recent weeks. Why not have a go yourself.
9. Download Strava
Okay so this is a slightly rogue suggestion, but it's a great way of keeping in touch if you're part of a running group, or share a love of fitness with friends and family members across the world.
Strava is an app that allows you to record runs, walks or even cycle rides and share them with the people you choose to connect with. Not only is this a great way of staying motivated, but you can encourage friends and family members as they continue running solo during this period of social distancing.
10. Keep it old school with FaceTime
Coming in last, but by no means least, we don't know where we'd be without FaceTime. One of the easiest ways to video call, for iPhone users, FaceTime allows you to connect, almost instantly, with friends and family.