A few days ago, I read an article titled I Spent a Year in Space, and I Have Tips on Isolation to Share written by Scott Kelly in The New York Times. In it, the retired astronaut who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station took it upon himself to share a few tips with readers on how to go through isolation without losing it. And although most of the piece consisted of some basic advice such as ‘follow a schedule’ or ‘find a hobby’, one really stood out to me: ‘take time to connect’.
Then, following the UK’s Prime Minister’s lockdown announcement Monday night, it seemed like those who had previously been quite relaxed about the whole self-isolation thing started to panic. Staring directly at the prospect of a few months in isolation is scary, no one can deny it, and so I’ve decided to share with you the best apps to use to tackle boredom and loneliness—and I truly hope they help you as much as they are helping me.
The first on the list is Houseparty, the video chat app that allows users to video call up to 7 people in one go. According to data from App Annie, last week Houseparty was downloaded 2 million times worldwide, compared to around 130,000 downloads the same week a month ago. In other words, the COVID-19 outbreak made the app go viral. As I’m writing this, my friends are waiting for me to join the group call and play another round of ‘Chips and Guac’, Houseparty is ranking number one in the App Store in 17 countries including the UK, Spain and Italy (no surprise there) and number two on Google Play.
Not only does Houseparty offer you in-app games such as trivia or heads up, it also lets users share their screen if they wish to watch Netflix together or criticise their ex-partner’s new profile picture. But what makes it different from other video call apps is its spontaneity—where the name Houseparty originated from. Just like at an actual house party, users can find and join different groups of friends chatting in many different rooms. Feel like having a private chat with your two best mates in the ‘kitchen’? No worries, just lock the room and you’ll be blocking anyone else from entering the video call.
If self-isolation is not yet hitting you as hard as others, and if group chats are more your go-to way of communicating with friends and family, then WhatsApp is a good choice for you. Sharing memes and pictures of what you just stress-cooked in your Whatsapp group chat is not the only positive way you can use the messaging app. Health care professionals, educators, nonprofits and local businesses are also using WhatsApp to communicate with patients, students and customers.
Many are using the messaging app in order to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. Local restaurants in Madrid are using WhatsApp to coordinate supplying food to hospitals; medical professionals in Paris have formed a WhatsApp group to get the latest updates on hospital capacities and a nonprofit in the US has activated a WhatsApp helpline for coronavirus information.
The third app that I have been using in order to cure the constant boredom I have been battling as soon as my work day is over is Virtual Super Land. Although the app doesn’t connect you to people, it lets you create and experiment, whether you possess any artistic skills or not. The app applies the idea of a green screen to real-life objects by replacing anything that is bright green with the various animated designs it offers. Let me tell you, searching through my flat for any green object or clothes that I could play with and alter through the app has definitely entertained me for a few hours.
Last but not least is Instagram’s new Co-Watching feature revealed yesterday, which lets users look at their feed while simultaneously sharing their screen with friends through video chat. In other words, you’re going to be able to bitch with your best friends about everyone on Instagram—just like the old days. The fact that a pandemic had to happen to make people realise the potential this feature has is slightly worrying, but then again, of course social media companies have somehow found a way to cater more creatively to their users’ needs during the coronavirus outbreak.
Who knows, we might look back on these days and realise that these four apps were only a pandemic-induced fad. But until we’re out of lockdown and meeting friends, family members or even colleagues feels safe again, these are the only things that might keep us sane. So… who wants to play heads up?
The coronavirus outbreak is only now starting to seriously affect the UK and the US, and everyone is panicking. Here I am, working from home during what seems to be the end of the world. People are scared, confused and unsure about what lies ahead. Have we got enough food in the house? Am I really going to do all my meetings through video calls for the next month? Even worse, am I really going to be unable to date people for a whole month?
Reaching ultimate boredom because you’re stuck in the house is one thing; self-isolating and therefore missing out on many great dates—and, potentially, great sex—is another thing. Here’s how the coronavirus is impacting our dating lives and what you can do to make things just a tiny bit better.
Speaking with some friends about whether or not they were still using dating apps and if so what for, one just stated what should have been obvious to me: “it’s making people horny innit.” Well, it turns out it actually is. Hinge has become the ‘place to be’ for thirsty coronavirus pick-up lines. Tinder is kindly asking its users to wash their hands and avoid touching their face—let alone go any further than chatting through the app. People are home, bored and swiping through profiles just to get a distraction from our constant anxiety-inducing pandemic newsfeed.
Add self-isolation to general public health concerns, and people feel lonely, panicked and desperate for some company. Friends that were ‘on the market’ for a few months have decided to delete their dating apps completely, justifying this by explaining that opportunities are much slimmer and that nobody seems to be talking about anything else at all. “Dating during a pandemic is just… different,” said one.
Screen Shot spoke to a Tinder spokesperson about how the app was approaching the outbreak and what measures it was taking to inform people to stay safe. “Tinder understands that our members are oftentimes meeting new people in-person, and given the current environment, we wanted to remind them of the precautions they should take. All of the suggestions shared are from the World Health Organization, and we are making it easy for everyone on Tinder to find out more by linking directly from the app to the WHO site.” In other words, at the moment, there’s not much the app can do apart from encouraging people to avoid meeting for dates.
However, while it looks like regular activity is continuing on Tinder, the dating app just recently had to cancel the release of its apocalyptic-themed in-app video series called Swipe Night. The company had planned to release the first season of the show offering a five-minute interactive story where users made choices to progress the narrative. These choices would then appear on the users’ profiles and would be used to match them with others who also took the same action. Apocalyptic theme put aside, this actually sounded like a good distraction. Another one bites the dust.
The same can be said for other dating apps such as Bumble, Hinge and Grindr. And while the reasons behind this drought are more than justified, FaceTiming matches and having phone sex might not cut it.
That’s where Feeld comes in. For those of you who haven’t heard about it before, Feeld is a dating app for people interested in polyamory, kink, swinging and other alternative sexual preferences. Speaking to Feeld’s head of PR Lyubov Sachkova, Screen Shot asked about the app’s new way of facilitating intimate interactions. “Being online is what everyone seems to be doing now, more so than ever. What that means for dating is that while people might not be meeting in real life they still would want to connect with like-minded individuals and create connections, chat and get to know one another,” explained Sachkova.
So what is Feeld doing better than the rest of our dating apps? It is introducing a feature that will actually relieve us from our self-isolating horny state. “We recently launched a project titled For Play where you can digitally touch, tease and flirt with others”. If you decide to enter the For Play universe, you will be transformed into a floating avatar that both mirrors and completely abstracts your features. Your ‘orb’-like avatar is then assigned to a digital room where you can play with up to three other live participants.
What’s the deal, some of you might ask. “We are aiming to create a multi-sensory digital experience that stimulates sight, touch and hearing. So hopefully in this time of social distancing we can still feel the positive effects of human touch even if only digitally for now.” While we’re all stuck inside losing our mind over the tiniest thing only because we can’t deal with being isolated for more than two days, For Play gives you the chance to get a tiny bit of gratification and thrill over bumping your orb against someone else’s—sounds dirty, I know.
What we can take away from this is that dating will not be the same for a little while. Whether you decide to keep on using dating apps to chat online or have already deleted Hinge from your phone, we can all agree that self-isolation is, technically, making meeting new people harder for everyone. It’s all about your determination now. Are you willing to date through FaceTime? If not, For Play seems like the safest (and funnest) option.
So, what are you waiting for? Want to bump your orb against mine? Just make sure you wash it first.