While the government have eased some restrictions on meeting up with family and friends, social distancing looks set to be with us for some time to come, and for many, getting social with those we love has moved from meeting in person to using technology to do so.
Many of us may be starting to return to work, and enjoy the outside a little more, however, a great number of people are still shielding, or in riskier categories and will be staying home for a while longer.
Staying in touch with the world is vital to our good mental health and general wellbeing, and thanks to the wonders of modern tech, we now have a range of ways to keep in contact – from following updates from those near or far on social media to having a “Zoom party” there are plenty of channels we can use to communicate when we want to.
But with choice comes confusion – with so many different platforms, it can be tricky to know which one is best to use in any given circumstance, so we explore the best apps to stay in touch during Covid-19.
Until recently, Zoom was used mainly by businesses as an easy alternative to purchasing expensive video conferencing software. However, as the pandemic has hit, it’s become more and more popular with families and individuals who want to stay in touch but have some virtual “face to face” contact.
Zoom is at heart a video conferencing application, but thanks to being easy to use, and offering a free version, it’s becoming a go to for many to host family quizzes, theme nights, or just to be able to “see” those who they are chatting with.
Why is Zoom so popular?
For many, the love for Zoom comes from the fact that it’s very easy to use, offers a free version, and also has some tools that businesses cannot find elsewhere – such as being able to take over someone else’s screen and being able to record.
Is Zoom Free?
Zoom offers a basic free version, which can be perfect for families who wish to have online contact. The basic version allows for unlimited chat on one to one meetings – and remember that’s per “screen” – so if you want to gather your family around the kitchen table – that counts as one user. For bigger groups, you can still use the free version, but the time is limited to 40 minutes.
WhatsApp is now one of the most popular messaging applications, and is a fantastic way to bring groups together too. While it does offer call and video call functionality, where it has come into its own during Covid-19, is for its renown “group chats”, with many of us putting together groups of family or friends who can share their news, photos, and, let’s be honest – our favourite memes.
What’s the difference between WhatsApp and normal texting?
Generally, when you send a text message, it’s sent via your cellular network – and may incur a charge per message (though of course these days, messages are often bundled into our contracts). However WhatsApp runs from your internet, so you don’t pay for your messages. It is an App though, so needs to be installed to work.
However, it does give more flexibility than traditional text messaging, as messages can be sent and viewed across a range of devices, not just a mobile phone – as long as you install the application, WhatsApp can be accessed from phones, tablets and laptops – making it a great option to keep in contact with those who don’t necessarily have smartphones.
The biggest social network in the world is well known for being a great way to keep in touch with the wider world. In addition to having messaging functionality (just like WhatsApp, which Facebook also owns), you can also see what your “friends” are up to by following their posts.
Facebook has a HUGE range of features, and also includes a “groups” function, which can be a great way to see what’s going on in your area – very helpful at a time where knowing how long a queue for a local supermarket is, or what’s open and what’s not.
While there have been some privacy concerns, around Facebook – the key for those who wish to stay private on the platform is understanding settings – and there’s a great guide here.
While we continue to keep apart from our loved ones, it’s never been a better time to stay in touch virtually – and these platforms can all be helpful.