Do you have the quarantine blues? In the age of necessary social distancing, the sense of social isolation can become a serious problem. (Let’s be honest: Even watching something so jaw-dropping as Tiger King isn’t nearly as much fun when you’re by yourself. Sometimes you just need someone else there to see and hear what you’re seeing and hearing.)
Well, staying at home doesn’t have to be lonely. You can still gather with your best friends and share a movie, take in a show or play a game together through virtual parties.
How Do Virtual Parties Work?
Watch parties on all different platforms work essentially the same way: Via an app or a platform, friends can gather to watch a synchronized showing of the same movie or show on their own electronic devices. They can then chat with each other and react with emojis to what’s on the screen in a dialogue box on the side.
Netflix Party is one of the most popular platforms for synchronized movie viewing, but it only works with Chrome and its own service. Facebook watch parties have been letting folks reach each other and share social events virtually since 2018. Apps like Metastream and twoseven, on the other hand, are newer and work with nearly any streaming service and browser, which makes them the most flexible options.
The trick is that everyone who wants to join your watch party has to be using the same platform or app in order to make it work. You can’t really have a watch party if one of your friends is watching a show on YouTube and the other is watching it on Amazon Prime, so organization by the host is key.
Would you rather play a game, meet with your book club or share a pint with your bestie? There’s a way to do that, too! Hop over to Zoom, Google Hangouts or a similar conferencing app. A simple download can make it easy for everyone in your group to get together “face-to-face.” During Zoom calls, for example, you can see everyone in the virtual room at once and you can all talk pretty much just as you would in person — no typing or reading required!
How Do You Host a Virtual Party?
Hosting a virtual party isn’t quite the same as hosting a party in-person (there’s not as much cleaning up afterward, for example) but that doesn’t mean you can leave everything to chance. Being a host does take a little work. Here’s how to start:
1. Decide on a theme.
The best parties are always focused on something. Having a focus allows you to kickstart the party and provides a structure that will get everyone talking. It also helps you make sure that all of the guests are prepared with what they need at home to make the party work.
Some popular ideas you should feel free to steal include:
- Cocktail parties: You can decide on a theme, like “1920s cocktails,” or “Whiskey drinks” if you’re hosting a “virtual night out for drinks.” Just make sure that everyone has the list of necessary ingredients and the tools to mix the drinks on their own (with your guidance) before you start.
- Game time: Trivia games and games like Bingo are ideal over Zoom, so long as everybody has the right scorecards. All you have to do is make sure that you email a template they can print out or send them their scorecard in the mail in advance of the party.
- Scavenger hunts: When held virtually, these can be an absolute blast and make you feel like a kid again. Since the goal is not to leave the house, you challenge guests to come up with whatever they can find inside their home that most closely approximates whatever is on your increasingly complicated list.
- Dress up parties: Part of going out is dressing up in your finest stuff and flaunting whatever you’ve got. You can do that via Zoom, just as easily. One fun suggestion is to tell everyone to drag out that one outfit they have nowhere else to wear and put it on with all the trimmings. Still have your old wedding dress? Perfect. That wild Ren Fair creation that you wore exactly once? Awesome. That crazy crocheted loungewear your grandma made you? Bring it on!
- Movie parties: A good movie party does take supplies, so make sure that your guests know to stock up on popcorn, soda and snacks before you get started. Not sure what to watch? We’d personally suggest something along the lines of Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland or Sharknado for something that takes a little bit of a lighthearted approach to reality.
2. Set a Time and Send Invitations
Since virtual parties are easier to hold with a limited number of people, curate your guest list carefully. Is this party for your drinking pals, your best mom-friends or someone else? Let your theme help you decide whom to invite.
Make sure that you send your invitations out just like you would a regular party, with all of the necessary information your guests will need in advance, including what app to use, what time to log in and what to have ready.
Virtual parties have been embraced by DJs, dancers, celebrity authors and more — why not join in on the excitement? You don’t even have to worry about getting a sitter or finding a ride to have a blast. Virtual parties are so cool, that you may find yourself carrying on the tradition long after social distancing is no longer necessary!