You can still karaoke under lockdown
You can still karaoke under lockdown

Second lockdown: Best alternative ways to hang out with friends over video chat, from karaoke to cook alongs

Tired of Zoom beers and quarantinis? Expand your virtual socialising horizons

Helen Coffey@LenniCoffey
Monday 09 November 2020 11:46
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Going back into a second nationwide lockdown till 2 December, the novelty that (somewhat) existed in March is really starting to wear thin – especially when it comes to socialising.

Meeting up for Zoom beers or quarantinis over Facetime may have been fun a few months ago, but now the jarring interruptions as more than one person tries to talk at once (and the ensuing, “Sorry, what?”, “What did you-”, “I said-”, “Oh, you go!”) are enough to make you want to press pause on the whole thing.

So how do you hangout without losing your mind? Here’s our pick of the top alternative activities to try over video chat to keep your social life feeling fresh.

Cook along

Everyone’s got at least one friend who loves cooking (and hopefully showing off how good they are). See if you can convince them to run a virtual cooking workshop for a group of you. All you need them to do is pick a recipe and send out the list of ingredients in advance (steering clear of the hardest-to-source items – so flour and toilet paper are out).

It can be hosted over any video chat app of your choosing; just “pin” the head chef so that you can see them at all times on screen even if someone else is making a racket. Get them to talk through and demonstrate the recipe step-by-step so you’re all cooking it together. And voila! When it’s ready, you can sit down to eat together too.

Paging all friends who would secretly love to be celebrity chefs

Quizzes

Pub quizzes don’t have to disappear just because access to pubs has. There are plenty of ways to get involved, either by creating one yourself, using a site like myquiz.org and inviting your friends, or joining a pre-existing set-up – virtual pub The Staying Inn (@TheStayingInn), for example, hosts a pub quiz every Saturday night.

There are also themed quizzes to try with your friends: charity child.org is currently hosting a whole heap of them, focusing on everything from Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to Gavin and Stacey and Mean Girls. Sign up at spectacularpubquizzes.com.

Book Club

If you’re part of a book club already, move it to a virtual one. If you’re not, why not start one? It’s not like people don’t have time to read… Pick a book, get everyone to order it (prioritising independent book sellers where you can), and set a date. To get things running smoothly, choose someone to host, who can prepare some questions in advance to keep the conversation flowing, plus facilitate proceedings by asking specific people to contribute (helping eradicate the “after you-”, “no, after you!” video chat curse).

Tasting sessions

Coordinate ordering the same crate of craft beer, wine, or artisanal cheeses – whatever floats your boat. Then set aside a night where you can all do a virtual tasting, trying the same ones and comparing notes over video. It has the added of bonus of supporting smaller suppliers (and gives you the perfect excuse to go to town on the fancy booze/snacks).

It's not drinking alone if it's over Zoom (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Meditate

If you already do some regular meditation practice, invite friends who might be interested to join you. Even if it’s just through a screen, doing it with others gives the whole thing a different, more focused energy. Using an app like Insight Timer also lets you see how many other people in the world are meditating at the same time as you (and provides a wide selection of gongs to choose from, always handy).

Board games

If you have the same board games as some of your circle already, there’s no reason you can’t have a virtual games night. Get into teams and set up the board so that you move the other players’ pieces forward as well as your own. If you live with someone so you can be on the same team, so much the better – it means the video delay doesn’t slow down your efforts. Games like Articulate and Cranium work particularly well.

Set up a virtual board game night

Movie night

Watching a film with friends is one of life’s great joys, and you can recreate it during the era of lock-down in several ways. If you and your posse have Netflix, download Netflix Party for free – it synchronizes video playback and adds group chat so you can watch together while having a natter. Alternatively, go more low-tech and manually synchronise starting your favourite film at the same time (by saying “press play NOW!” over the phone). Then, either chat through it using your messaging app of choice, eg Whatsapp, or go even more old skool and wait till the film’s finished before ringing them up for a debrief.

Karaoke

Once you’re on a video chat, take it in turns to find a backing track and lyrics and then belt out your favourite song into a hairbrush. The key here is to enable the original sound – apps like Zoom are designed around the volume of a regular speaking voice and cut off any noise that’s too loud unless you adjust the settings. Extra points for those who go the whole hog with wigs/props/costumes etc.

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