For many of us, our social lives came to a screeching halt in late-February and early-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay at home orders, social distancing and quarantines displaced play dates, FRG meetings, coffee outings and other in-person social support gatherings. However, social support during this pandemic is extremely important to combat the feelings of isolation, helplessness and hopelessness some might be feeling as a response to weeks and months at home.
While some communities and businesses begin to reopen, every command has their own rules in place for sailors and their families. As the pandemic continues, how can we continue to maintain social contact without physical meetups? The answer is to use virtual hang out spaces!
Below is a list of virtual meeting spaces and tips and tricks for hosting virtual hangouts.
Before the pandemic, Zoom was utilized mainly by institutes of higher education and businesses who needed to conduct classes and meetings in virtual space. Zoom is now a household name for many! Zoom has a variety of options for meetings. The free version allows up to 100 participants, with a 40-minute limit to group meetings. The free version allows virtual “waiting rooms” and password protected meetings to allow more control over who can access the meeting space. Zoom offers a desktop and a mobile version. A useful feature of Zoom is the ability to “share screen,” which allows individuals to share what they see on their screen with others. This might be helpful if you play virtual games, or want to share photos during your hang out. You can learn more about Zoom here.
Formerly Google Hangouts, Google Meet has different features depending on the version you are using. Anyone with a Google account has access to the free version, which allows up to 100 participants at a time. Due to the pandemic, Google is allowing free customers to host maximum meeting lengths of 24 hours. However, the free version will reset to a maximum meeting length of one hour on September 30th. The free version works from a browser or an app and allows share screen and presentation modes. You can learn more about Google Meet and download the software here.
Facebook & WhatsApp
If you (and everyone else in the hang out) have an Apple Device, you can utilize Facetime to host a virtual meet and greet. Facetime can be used on your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Facetime allows group conversations of up to 32 people. Like Zoom and Google Meet, with larger groups, the “room” is split up into different tiles, with each participant in their own tile. Facetime is nice if you don’t want to download yet another app to your phone or iPad, however, it is limited to people with Apple Devices. For more information on hosting a group hangout on Facetime, visit Apple Support.
If you want to use your phone for a group hang out, but don’t have an Apple device (or not everyone in the group has an Apple device), download WhatsApp. A favorite among people who are traveling internationally to keep in touch with friends and families back home, WhatsApp has recently increased their platform to allow up to 8 people on a video call.
Facebook Messenger Rooms
A newer arrival to the virtual hang out scene are the Messenger Rooms from Facebook. This feature can be started from the Messenger App or the Facebook App. You can invite people to your Messenger Room even if they do not have a Facebook account. The rooms can hold up to 50 people and do not have a time limit.
- Remember OPSEC. Even though some of these platforms have end-to-end encryption, ask yourself “Is this the proper way for me to share this information?”
- Whenever possible, password protect your virtual “room.” This will help prevent unwanted guests popping into your group.
- Directly share meeting information with individuals you want to attend. Don’t share the meeting information in a public way unless you want someone from the public to potentially join.
- Remember good internet safety. Some of these apps have recording features. Zoom, for example, allows recording with a message sent to participants that the meeting is being recorded.
- If it is your first time using some of this software, test it out before your hangout. Are you able to do what you want to do with the software, or should you try a different one?
Not sure what to do during your hangout? Here are some suggestions:
- Host a cocktail party (or a Wine & Whine party).
- Host a playdate or story time for your kids and their friends.
- Play board games-either virtually or with boards! Here is a list of some virtual gaming websites.
- Do a virtual paint and sip. Make sure everyone has their own supplies, find a painting tutorial on YouTube and get to it!
- Host a movie night with Netflix Party.
- Have coffee (or tea) together!
- Hang out virtually!
What has been your favorite way to connect during social isolation? Any other hangout ideas that you have tried?