Dear reader — wow! What a rollercoaster these past weeks have been. I hope that wherever you are, you are staying safe. COVID-19 has altered our college experience, but it doesn’t prevent us from connecting with the friends we’ve gotten to know! This week I’ve tried different methods of video chat, and I found that each app or site has its own ups and downs. Today I will rank some of the popular video chatting methods — from worst to best.
When I first got a Macbook, I was intrigued by the FaceTime option. I own an Android phone, so the idea of video-chatting someone by dialing their phone was exciting. It seemed free from the prying eyes of Google or Facebook. Almost four years later, the allure has waned. FaceTime isn’t as accommodating as other apps to groups. You also have to own an Apple product in order to have access. For those reasons, FaceTime is coming in last place.
Next up is Zoom! I didn’t know anything about Zoom until UR moved classes online. Zoom is accessible to most people with a computer and decent internet access. It’s excellent at managing large groups. There are multiple ways of inviting others to join, which is convenient. Zoom also lets you change your chat background. However, when I tried to partake, I was told that my laptop was too old and could not handle the fun. Zoom can smoothly transition from regular group chatting to screen sharing, which I find quite impressive.
What confuses me about Zoom is its chat function. The idea of messaging people while simultaneously video chatting is great. But the function is confusing, because all communication, whether it be to the entire group or to a single person, is done in the same chat. That can lead to embarrassing mistakes (like accidentally sending some hot tea to the entire group when it was only meant for one person). Another gripe I have is how those with free Zoom accounts must limit their sessions to 40 minutes. While a subscription to Zoom can solve that problem, the monetary barrier is an issue. Zoom seems well-outfitted for more professional settings. There are useful functions that you would use in a business meeting or class, but there aren’t many functions that scream “Fun!” Zoom gets third place.
Runner-up is Facebook video chat. Facebook video chat works as an extension of Messenger. It’s easy to let multiple people know that you want to video chat since everyone in the groupchat gets a call at once, which is convenient. Half the battle these days is making sure everyone hops onto the videochat at the same time, and this app solves a lot of those problems. There are also a bunch of fun functions: a variety of face filters — funny, cute, or borderline gross. There are also several games you can play with others in the groupchat. These games and filters don’t work on the laptop version of the video chat, which is a bummer. While Facebook video chat is fun and easy to use, I always get the feeling that I’m being watched — Facebook is notorious for collecting user data, and I can’t un-know that. Facebook, while not being the best is still great — second place!
So reader, I’m sure you’re wondering what app I gave first place. Before I let you know, here’s a disclaimer. This list is my personal opinion. If you like certain video chatting hosts more than others, that’s alright.
Ok, now it’s time to announce our winner — drum roll please — Houseparty!! Ok, I know what you’re thinking — Houseparty?! That app that I downloaded my first year at college that has remained untouched ever since?!
I am here to serve as a Houseparty ambassador. Houseparty is a free app that is accessible to anyone with a smartphone. It has several functions to let people know you are available to video chat, such as a coy handwave function, and a more direct call function. Also, it also notifies you when your friends are on the app, and lets others know when you are on it.
Houseparty is an app solely dedicated to the art of video group chatting, so it has many practical and entertaining functions. It lets you easily add friends from your phone’s contact list if they also have the app installed.
It also has classic games to play with others, like knockoffs of pictionary, Apples to Apples, and many trivia games. Anybody who is friends with you can join a chat (there is a lock function for those more private chats) which is exciting. The sheer spontaneity of the app is what excites me — it’s the closest experience I’ve found to randomly running into people on campus.
So there’s my ranking, reader. I’m sure that as our period of self-isolating continues my opinions will change, but at the moment, this is the current ranking. Stay safe, stay healthy, and make sure to use these apps to keep some semblance of social interaction in your life — we are all in this together!