We’ve spent the last however long trying to put down our phones. To switch off and be present IRL, because technology and social media are universally deemed to be the killers of social interaction and emotional connection. Yet, now it’s all we have. And so for the first time in a long time we’re using social media and tech in - wait for it - actually sociable and productive ways. And yes, we should embrace it because where would we be without it? But we're also allowed to bemoan it, because sixth Zoom call of the day or no sixth Zoom call of the day, I don't want to join your House Party.
You went to approximately nine house parties this weekend, and yet your dignity and uber rating remained intact. No, you weren’t flagrantly disregarding social distancing, you were simply doing your socialising via Houseparty. According to Google Trends, searches for the Houseparty App last week were the highest they’ve been in the US and the UK since the app’s launch in 2016. Having sat at number 304 for four years, it is now the second most popular app from the App Store's social media offering.
So, it's a bit bonkers. Up to eight people can be in one house, 'partying' together. The lock function (which denies entry to anyone not already in the party) is as close as you’ll get to a guest list - otherwise it’s a free for all. On approximately three occasions, you’ll join a house party of people you follow on Instagram but do not know. You didn’t even ask for their address. Let alone get in the Uber. You were just, somehow… there. "Hiiiii," you say furtively, before duly French exit-ing. For the most part, interactions are made up of shrieking “HEY’s!”, and playing games - Quick Draw, Trivia and Heads Up - that end as quickly as they start, but it's a joy to see smiling friends' faces, debating the ratio of fresh lime juice to tequila.
In a gross - but great - invasion of privacy you can see who your contacts are chatting to at all times (just in case you want to join). The push notifications are aggressive, but perhaps that’s the point in times of woeful solitude; that people are still fervently calling in on each other, with lame games and virtual margaritas which is quite lovely, actually.
It’s one big whiteboard, and everyone has a pen and a rubber. When alone it can be peaceful, productive and meditative. Microsoft Word with a pulse! But when your colleagues are percolating in the corner, singularly initialed, watching your every move, poised to prematurely chime in to ask you the question you’re just about to type the answer to, should they let you finish, it can be infuriatingly chaotic. Track changes and edits where your boss is involved, is like being seated next to an exasperated teacher who's marking your exam. Demoralising and dejecting. You watch out of one squinted eye as you see your ideas and execution decimated at the press of a single strikethrough. Constructive criticism, you tell yourself. And really, see it like this: you too are privy to the flow and freneticism of their thoughts, and your colleagues', which is as reassuring as it is rewarding.
Previously used in board meetings, we're now using the video conferencing call to speed date, wine taste, downward dog, and pottery paint. Incidentally but unsurprisingly, Zoom is outperforming the stock market crash. Your professional work is conducted primarily on Zoom, and despite the fact that many have used it before, some are yet to get the hang of it. One colleague is always fumbling and or gormless which begs the question, why not just play your best Unequivocally Co-operative and Interested Employee for 10 minutes? You can do anything - literally anything! - for the remaining 7 hours and 50 of your working day (you are working an eight hour day, right?). We have all seen the videos of rookie users making their way to the bathroom, only for their colleagues to sit silent and stunned, as if at a dining table with someone regaling a tale with spinach in their teeth. (Please can MIND put out a PSA to save these people from PTSD). Best of all, from a director or two, you'll get a deliciously irresistible glimpse into their home life. Wow their kitchen is a doom of echoes (read: spacious!). *Cocks head and squints* is that a marble splash back behind an Aga. Oh, and that hot water tap?
So, you haven't heard of Instagram's Co-Watching yet, but it's only a matter of time. As the name suggests, Co-Watching allows you to view Instagram posts in tandem with friends. Oh come on, what fun is it really to be alone in scroll 16 of your ex boyfriend’s new girlfriend's mum's feed? Perhaps you'll utilise it for something more savoury, like perusing wallpaper saves with your good-at-interiors friend who'll steer you clear of busy and violent lilac. How to? As per Instagram’s instruction, “start a video chat by tapping the video chat icon in the Direct inbox or in an existing Direct thread, then view saved, liked and suggested photos/videos by tapping the photo icon in the bottom left corner in an ongoing video chat.” Enjoy!
The folks at Instagram are no doubt thrilled. No other event has given the feature so much purpose. Not the Oscars or the Grammys, the UK elections or the US primaries, the Australian Wildfires or #Sussexit. Covid-19 has put IGTV on the social media map, not least with celebrities, but also ingenious businesses and individuals pivoting to provide their service through a different lens. Barry’s - alongside most other fitness studios - is doing online HIIT sessions. Elliott Awin has partnered with natural wine merchant Pull The Cork, to bring you virtual wine tasting (and our restaurant critic Frankie McCoy has reviewed it). Laura Jackson is hosting a paella cook-a-long. Pasta Grannies are offering tagliatelle tutorials. Yes, the list of skills you must master to an Olympic standard is ever growing, but there really is no time like the present.
Celebrity-wise, Miley Cyrus has launched a series of daily self-care broadcasts, under the franchise Bright Minded: Live with Miley. Jennifer Garner, meanwhile, has teamed up with Amy Adams to launch a storytelling initiative called #SaveWithStories, which invites a tonne of celebs to read bedtime stories in a bid to raise money for kids whose food intake is affected by prolonged school closures. Under the banner #TogetherAtHome, a remarkably unpolished Chris Martin held a concert, fumbling and charming his way through some Coldplay classics, in order to raise attention and money for coronavirus relief efforts. He passed the baton to John Legend, who was joined by wife Chrissy Teigen, perched atop his grand piano, rosé in hand. You might never have gone to their concerts otherwise, but you’ll enjoy them wholeheartedly otherwise.