With regular in-person contact now looking to be limited, utilising the internet to retain a sense of community and social interaction is more important than ever.
Using video calling options such as FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype are excellent ways of communicating with friends, but there are other ways to find a sense of community online.
Social video gaming
There are huge swathes of online gaming communities you can join to stay connected with others. Whether you’re a seasoned console-enthusiast or someone looking to make better use of your smartphone, there are many ways to have social interaction through games.
Twitch is one of the most popular. It involves live streams of gamers and has 15-million active daily users for popular games like Minecraft and Fortnite. Each broadcast gives you the opportunity to interact with the gamer and other people watching, and you can also broadcast your own gaming amongst your friends or strangers who are already logged on.
As well as broadcasts from internationally renowned gamers, they run a series of marathons around video content. One of cult-painter Bob Ross, renowned for his soothing shows, has amassed almost 34 million unique views.
Most consoles have online gaming capabilities so you can play with friends or others online, including the Playstation Network and Xbox Live. Steam, a way of accessing PC games online, also has several community-driven features. You may need to buy the game you want to play or pay a subscription fee, but it gives you the chance to finish the Premier League season on FIFA or build a farmland community with Stardew Valley.
If you’re looking to use a smartphone or tablet then there are numerous gaming options on Google Play and iOS which offer community features.
First time online gamer? Here are our five top picks:
- Minecraft (all formats) The planet's most popular video game allows you to build your own world around you in groups of up to eight. Monsters attack but they are generally quite easy to deal with, whilst you can collaborate with friends on specific projects. It's a game that you can play for a handful of time here or there or hours on end; chances are it'll end up being the latter.
- Dragalia Lost (iOS and Android) A ragtag ensemble of adventurers has to resurrect a shattered fantasy kingdom in this free game. In-App purchases are available but not essential, and there's a large-scale community of online players you and your friends can easily join.
- Sea of Thieves (PC and Xbox One)This allows groups of up to four people to embark on pirating adventures, looting other ships and trying to locate lost treasure. You'll meet other players and complete quests along the way.
- Journey (iOS & PS4)Journey operates around a basic premise - you guide a mysterious hooded creature towards an unexplained light through a desert wasteland. You can play solo, but the multiplayer option allows you to interact with others going through the same challenge.
- Rayman Legends (PS4, PS3, Wii, PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One)You and up to three other players control Rayman and his cohorts, a group of insects that have to navigate their way through an enchanted forest. If you love classic platform games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario brothers you'll love this.
Interactive word games
You can also use Facebook to play games with your friends, which will enable you to invite your contacts to join in with them. Simulators of classic games like Texas HoldEm Poker and 8 Ball Pool are hugely popular ways of using Facebook. You can also play with friends (and other online gamers) for fantasy games like Clash of Clans or test your general knowledge on Trivia Crack.
Netflix and chill online
In the same way you can live stream your gaming experience, you can also do the same with Netflix. Netflix Party is an extension for the web browser Chrome that enables you to watch the streaming site with friends and interact through a live chat room, which offers you the opportunity to pause the content for everyone if you suddenly need to discuss what just happened.
With multi-screen options it gives you the opportunity to replicate a movie night with your friends, and is easy enough to install as long as you have a Netflix account. If you don’t, or you want to have a similar experience with another streaming service, then you can use the app Scener or arrange a conference call through a free calls service like Skype.
#TogetherAtHome music concerts on social media
With music tours cancelled and postponed in the wake of the virus, many musicians have taken to broadcasting live shows from their homes across social media as a means of staying connected with their fans.
These broadcasts give you the opportunity to interact with other viewers whilst they are taking place, and you can use the network's messaging platform to send the stream to your friends and contacts.
You can see all the content under the #Togetherathome hashtag, but check your favourite artists to see if they are doing so. Facebook groups around music are also a good way of communicating with like-minded others, so search to see if there are any relevant ones you can join.
Get creative with a new social network
If you’re looking to get more connected with your friends, then joining a new social network could be perfect. You may already use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for this purpose, but there are others too.
TikTok is the world’s fastest-growing social network. Although primarily for a younger audience, it allows you to share short video clips as well as watch those from celebrities alongside your friends.
It’s already had a surge in COVID19 content, with 23 billion views of TikTok content with the hashtag #coronavirus. A good example of the creativity on the network is the response to rapper Cardi B’s rant about the disease.
Although a lot of the channel is light-hearted, it’s been an invaluable resource in letting younger people know more about how to deal with the impact of self-isolating and protecting themselves and others from catching the disease. This article outlines some beginners tips when joining the network.
Houseparty is another app which has seen lots of downloads since more people started self-isolating, as it allows you to have video calls between big groups of people. You can send out invitations for your friends to add you on the app or find people based on your phone contacts and Facebook friends.
As well as group video calls you can send video messages to one another, and get push notifications every time someone you know joins the app or one of your contacts is online. This is probably more useful for staying in touch en masse with a big group of friends, and you can use it on Google Chrome on a laptop or a TV screen via Chromecast. To do this you’ll need to request a link once you’ve signed up to the app.
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