Social distancing and self-quarantine may not be what many expected for 2020. People are advised to keep their distance from others and stay home to help halt the rapid spread of COVID-19. However, just because you can’t be near others, that doesn’t mean you need to be alone. With the technology we have today, there are various ways to socialize with each other online.

Chatting online and video-calling have always been used, but is especially needed during these times to stay in touch with others. Two platforms that have seen a surge in users lately are Discord and Zoom. They both provide mass communication with text, audio, video, and even screen-sharing within created servers, making it easier to get together with groups online whether for work or entertainment.

Zoom is a company made for providing communication services for conferences and meetings. Their basic plan starts off as free for personal meetings, but there are also options to upgrade to three other levels—Pro, Business, and Enterprise—which starts at $20 each month per host and gives more features as the plans move up.

Discord is originally designed for video gaming communities, but has gained massive popularity with other communities. During quarantine, many people have flocked to this free-to-use software, overloading its servers and causing it to crash due to the rise of users. In response, Discord increased its capacity worldwide by more than 20 per cent to ensure smooth communication and increased the live-streaming and screen share limit from 10 to 50 people during this time.

With these communication services, they create many possibilities for group activities. With their screen-sharing function, one way to have a virtual hangout is to watch movies together. However, if you don’t want to download Discord for that, you can try Netflix Party. To use it, you’ll need to have access to a Netflix account and Google Chrome on your desktop. Netflix Party is a free Google Chrome extension that lets you watch Netflix remotely with other people by synchronizing your video playback and adding a group chat. It lets you watch Netflix movies or shows at the same time as your friends while still staying at home. This Chrome extension gained lots of traffic during this self-isolation period, like Discord, and now has well over a million users.

If you want something more than movies, online gaming has always been popular and lets you actively do something with friends. The Jackbox Party Pack is one example that works on various platforms like your computer or game consoles. Each series contains a bundle of different games, like Quiplash, Fibbage, and Trivia Murder Party, where people play by using their phones and the website to connect to the main host server. However, Jackbox Games is not free, but if you are looking for no-cost options there are plenty online like the website Playing which has Cards Against Humanity, Crazy Eights, and more. In self-isolation, people have also been returning to or continuing more popular massive online games like League of Legends or MapleStory, which are also free to play on a computer. Other gaming consoles, like the Nintendo Switch, also have paid subscriptions that let you play with others online.

Even if none of these options appeal to you specifically, the beauty of modern technology is that you can create your own activities with others, like virtual book clubs. UTM professors Alexandra Gillespie and Jessica Henderson are in the works of planning a UTM English and Drama book club to swap books that are not required for school.

With unexpected twists and turns this year, it can be difficult to adjust to this quarantined lifestyle, but self-isolation doesn’t have to cut us off from the world completely. People are turning to the internet now more than ever and are getting more creative to stay connected.

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