Social distancing and home confinement is the new reality. Coronavirus has put a stop to everything we took for granted, even activities as basic as hanging out with friends at a bar. Thankfully, we are living in a technologically advanced era where mobile phones and computers with outstanding communication capabilities are common possessions of every person.
With technology, we have the means to stay in touch with friends and family without needing to go out and interact physically. I have rounded up some apps beyond the generic suggestions of WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype etc. that are fun to use and offer enjoyable activities that people can take part in remotely.
Gotta keep that cabin fever at bay somehow.
Increased Dependency on Social Apps during Covid-19
Locked up in homes, people have found comfort and excitement through technology and content available on the internet. There has been a general increase in usage of social apps that we have already grown quite dependent on since before coronavirus transformed our world.
According to Kantar, WhatsApp usage has increased by 40% during this pandemic. Facebook has also reported an increase in its messaging app by over 50% while Instagram usage has also purportedly increased by 40%. The Chinese local social media apps such as WeChat and Weibo have grown by 58%.
These stats show that people are turning more and more towards social media apps in order to stay in touch with friends and family. Without the technology that we have today, it is almost unimaginable that we could cope with the effects of this lockdown in a healthy manner.
What would have been the effects of prolonged social distancing and isolation and reduced contact and communication between people? It certainly would have taken a toll on our mental well-being if it weren’t for modern technology giving us the means to interact with others safely through the screens of phones, tablets, and PCs.
We all are using apps like WhatsApp and Zoom and frankly, these can get boring pretty quick if you have nothing else to do all day at home and can’t risk going out either. But there are literally millions of apps out there and there is no reason why you shouldn’t explore beyond WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat, and co.
Let’s explore some of the most interesting apps that you’ll likely find quite valuable during covid-19.
Apps for Dealing with Lockdown Isolation
I reached out to a few people to mention their favorite social apps that they’re using to preserve some semblance of normalcy during this incredibly difficult situation. Below is a list of the apps that I think can actually help take out boredom and frustration from our lives in a state of lockdown.
1. House Party
House Party is an app that basically allows you to throw a party with friends, without physically hanging out together. There are tons of in-app games and quizzes that you can play with your friends through the app such as Chips and Guack, Quick Draw, Trivia, and even Karaoke.
You can also use the app for group video-calls. The app will alert your friends when you launch the app, indicating that you’re “in the house”. The best thing is that people can only call and interact with you if you’re active in the app. So if you don’t like people randomly calling you without prior notice, you’re going to really like House Party.
BombBomb is probably the most convenient video messaging service out there. If you’re someone who prefers face-to-face communication, no matter how long or short, then BombBomb is for you. You can use BombBomb as a Chrome extension or get the mobile app to record a video and then send it to your contact through whichever platform you or they (or both?) prefer.
BombBomb integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Outlook, Gmail, and pretty much every other popular messaging/email app. The receiver doesn’t even need to have BombBomb in order to view your video message and that’s the one feature I love most about this app.
3. Netflix Party
The lockdown would be mind-numbingly boring without Netflix. But Netflix Party is a Chrome extension that makes our favorite streaming service even more exciting by allowing you to watch shows and movies with your friends in real-time.
Netflix Party synchronizes playback for you and your friends Netflixing together and also adds a sidebar to the screen where you have group chat during the playback. We have no idea when the lockdowns and will lift and normal will resume. So, until that happens, at least you can throw Netflix bingeing parties through safe distances.
4. Marco Polo
Marco Polo has been dubbed as the “video walkie talkie”. Essentially, it is a private messaging app that allows you to send video notes, much like Snapchat but you can actually save your chats. Marco Polo is not a public social media that you can use to connect with random stranger. It is more of a private social media where you can only interact with people through their phone numbers.
So if you’re only looking for meaningful communication through face-to-face contact with friends and family during Covid-19 without the negativity endemic to Facebook, Twitter, and the like, Marco Polo is a healthy and peaceful way for initiating remote hangouts.
You won’t find a better opportunity to polish your Chess skills than in this lockdown. If that’s something you’ve always wanted to do, then Lichess is a great app for smartphones designed for Chess nerds. With Lichess, you can play Chess with your smart friends for endless bragging rights if you manage to beat them like a pro. The app consists of a chat interface which makes it super-fun to taunt your opponent.
You can play Lichess online through your web browser or simply use the apps for Android and iPhones.
6. KaviAR Gate
Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that is still far from perfected, but it has certainly come a long way. As an example, take KaviAR Gate, an AR teleportation app that can take you to a world tour on destinations of your choice through the screen of your smartphone.
Since actual travel is out of the question in most parts of the world today due to the pandemic, KaviAR Gate can be the gateway to a whole new world of exploration without requiring you to even leave your house.
I’d strongly recommend the app to everyone confined in their homes. Simply seeing beautiful landscapes even in a virtual setting can produce a soothing effect on the mind and we need every opportunity we can get for keeping ourselves sane.
7. Animal Crossing
This Nintendo Switch video game is spreading like wildfire and coronavirus lockdowns likely have something to do with that. In this life simulation game, you can develop your island by gathering items, catching insects, and fish, and build a community of anthropomorphic animals.
The best part is that the game takes place in real-time and you can visit the islands of real people playing the game. In fact, the game mimics the actual weather conditions of the hemisphere you are located in. Many celebrities are playing the game and it is has become cultural phenomenon as people seek escape in the comfort of a peaceful game with real people in it.
8. Jackbox Party Pack
Jackbox Party Pack is a serious of video games released every year for people that like to party hard. Since the lockdown, the games have received a renewed interest as people search for ways to continue social interactions online.
The Jackbox games are designed to be played by a large group of people, perfect for parties. One of the more popular games in this series is Quiplash. Players are given a prompt to which you can give funny answers and other players can vote for their favorite answer to pick a winner.
There are dozens of other super-exciting party games including Monster Seeking Monster, Split the Room, Patently Stupid and more.
Just try not to get too drunk during the party.
9. Words with Friends
Words with Friends is similar to Scrabble and was actually inspired by the latter. Both game are excellent ways for improving your vocabulary and learning new words, but Words with Friends offers some features lacking in Scrabble.
Both games have a loyal fan base so you can go ahead with either games if you get off of dominating friends with your supreme knowledge of words. Words with Friends is a fun way to spend time afforded by stay-at-home-orders productively.
Another smartphone social app that allows nerds to flex their knowledge is QuizUp. The game gives you the option to choose a topic of your interest from over a thousand different categories. Once you select your preferred topic, you can choose to play with a friend or a random stranger from anywhere in the world.
A typical game consists of 6 rounds where both players are given the same question which they must answer within 10 seconds. For each questions, 4 options are given for choosing your answer. The faster you respond and with the better accuracy, the more points you earn. The player with the most points after the match is concluded wins.
QuizUp is a great way for nerds to get an ego-boost, especially if you are well-read about the particular niche or topic category that you want to compete with others in.
Kahoot! Is a learning platform that uses trivia, quizzes, and games for educational purposes. It was intended as an app for teachers and students, but anyone can use it. You can create quizzes and then share with your students, kids, family, or friends for both educational and non-educational purposes.
Kahoot! has actually been the subject of academic research intended to find whether it leads to better learning outcomes for students as compared to conventional teaching methods. The result has been consistently in the favour of Kahoot!, showing a positive correlation between perception of lectures, improvement in classroom dynamics, and lower anxiety levels.
With stay-at-home orders, Kahoot! can be a valuable learning tool for young people around the globe.
Triviador is quite unique in its genre as a combination of a strategy game and a trivia. It is basically a competitive game that you play against others online. To win, you may attack and conquer castles while answering trivia questions. Sounds weird? It is, but that’s what makes it so much fun.
The game offers excellent cross-platform compatibility. You can play it on your smartphones and desktops, and the game saves your progress so that you can continue playing where you left off even if you switch devices. For people that want to hone their strategy and trivia skills under covid-19 lockdowns, Triviador is a fun and effective exercise for the same.
Discord is a free VoIP service that is quite popular among gamers. You can make your own room that only you and your friends can access and have voice conversations through Discord while you play video games online.
It is available as a mobile app and can also be used through the browser. I find it particularly fun to use when playing online board games that do not directly support voice functionality. While texting features are usually embedded in most game apps, voice chat is often missing. This is the gap that Discord fills perfectly well.
Artebula is an app for creative kids out there. If you have a prolific young one that never gets tired of crating art projects and drawings, you’re probably going to find yourself overwhelmed with the immense volume of produce and not enough space to store all that stuff.
Artebula makes it super-easy to create a digital photobook that compiles all the art activities of your kids into a single neat portfolio. With the current lockdowns, children should be encouraged to explore their creative selves with no restraints to hold them back.
Artebula removes the obstacle of physical constraints and facilitates organization so that you can hold onto your artwork in your digital storage forever.
Skribbl is the online version of everyone’s favorite party game: charades. In this game, each player takes turns to draw something while other players try to guess the drawing. A maximum of 12 players can join and play together, but you can just play with 2 people too. Though for super-hilarious fun, you should have at least a half a dozen players around.
The Skribbl website is nicely optimized for both mobile and desktop. The game has a list of prompts that really helps give stupidly funny ideas for players to use. You can all participants to a VoIP service like Zoom, Google Meet, or Skype to make it even more fun and talk while trying to guess the drawing of your friend with poor drawing skills.
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