Nothing seems odd about a group of friends playing a party game on a Nintendo Switch. The same Nintendo Switch being shown through a phone screen while on a video call with six other people, however, may not be what people initially picture. But, that is exactly what junior Kevin Cosio and his friends did when playing Jackbox, a multiplayer party video game, that was originally meant for in-person use.
Self-isolation and staying at home has become the new normal due to the coronavirus, and days consequently feel bland and repetitive for many students. Although there is a physical barrier, that has not stopped students from using video calling platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and FaceTime to “see” their friends and family.
“[Playing Jackbox] has helped the situation feel more normal and gives me something to look forward to,” Cosio said.
During the quarantine, video conferencing apps have seen a drastic increase in downloads. According to Statistica.com, for the month of March, globally there have been 38.2 million downloads for Zoom, Skype and Houseparty combined. With these apps, people can communicate in a different way, whether it be for meetings, class, or just to talk.
“I’ve reconnected more with friends from England who I didn’t have much time to speak to before,” junior Charlotte Razzell said.
Turning to technology is not always a bad thing. Apart from reuniting with old friends, students find ways to have fun. Sophomore Sana Yooseph attempted to cut side bangs while on a group FaceTime call with her friends, taking inspiration from Instagram.
“My friends advised me against it, but I said ‘It will be a source of entertainment, I’m going to do it,’” Yooseph said. “Though it did not end up looking good and I have to [grow] my hair back, we all got a good laugh out of it.”
Teenagers usually enjoy watching movies together at theaters as well. However, with movie theaters shutting down, many have used the Netflix Party extension and others similar to it to watch movies and TV shows with one another. These extensions can be downloaded from the Chrome app store and they allow people to simultaneously watch something while still being able to chat with one another. To use it, one has to pull up what they want to watch and click on the extension to share the link to others, who can then watch it. Razzell used Netflix Party to watch To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before with her friends.
“It makes it easy to talk to each other while watching a show or movie that we all love. Plus, it makes it feel like we are together even when we are physically apart,” Razzell said.
Others video call their friends and play games while talking to each other, such as Club Penguin and Risk. Senior Aashni Patel plays Risk on her phone with seven people from around Orlando, talking with one another as they take turns.
“It keeps me from going crazy because it is nice to talk to other people besides my family. Normally, we do not talk often, but having a game night gives us an excuse to talk to one another,” Patel said.
Video calling others even allows day-to-day activities within the house to go by quickly. Eating lunch and working out may seem like menial activities, but for junior Shannen Chacon they became special. She eats lunch with her friends from time to time over a group FaceTime, and works out with a group over Skype.
“We have been doing workouts from YouTube together, rotating who picks the workout and then using the screen share feature so all of us can follow along at the same time,” Chacon said. “It makes me feel productive.”
The use of technology during these trying times has made an impact on people’s daily lives and relationships with others. For many, it tightened the bond that already existed within friendships.
Before the outbreak, Yooseph did not text as often and communicate with people much outside of school, as she would rather interact with them in person. However, her communication methods have adapted to the conditions.
“[My group] has group FaceTime calls almost every night now, and it has definitely strengthened our bond. After all of this is over, I think we are going to continue FaceTiming more,” Yooseph said.
While video conferencing has strengthened friendships, it also strengthened relationships with loved ones. While most have been avoiding physical contact with their grandparents because of virus concerns, people are still keeping up with their older relatives to make sure they are in good health. Chacon has not been able to visit her grandmother who lives close by as often as she could before; instead, she opts to FaceTime her instead twice a week.
“It’s hard not to be able to visit with her, but she and I have both really enjoyed getting to use FaceTime to talk,” Chacon said. “Keeping relationships healthy is important in general, but even more so in a time like this.”