There is no shadow of a doubt that we are experiencing an unprecedented change in our landscape.
As Covid-19 tightens its grip on communities across the land, all are trying to adapt physically, psychologically and financially to the ‘new normal’. The world has become unrecognisable and as such, fear is in abundance. However, as is often the case, at times like these unlikely friendships emerge from the chaos, to help us on our path.
Technology to the Rescue
In the past decade, we have all felt the effect of technology on our lives. Its emergence has been as impactful on every sphere of our lives as the virus, and similarly its power has been disarming, but now, its support can be invaluable.
Communities are inevitably becoming disparate, as self-isolation becomes the norm. But whether loved ones are in the next street, or on the other side of the world, the technology exists, not only to hear their voices, but to sit right beside them in their sitting rooms.
Which Platforms to Use?
The choice can be overwhelming but there are a few free resources which have been tried and tested for many years.
Skype and Zoom are popular platforms for video-conferencing that are really very straightforward to set up on both mobiles and lap-tops (similar to setting up online shopping, or banking where you establish your account with e-mail verification). But you don’t have to use the camera if you prefer to talk without seeing yourself or the person on the other end in video!
Zoom is that party animal that is able to contact you with a group of friends or business associates.
You can set up a meeting time over Zoom to keep in touch with all your family at once, or perhaps still have that meditation, yoga, craft or exercise class. All the participants just have to sign up to Zoom to join the meeting.
Please note that free meetings only last for forty minutes (although Zoom is extending this for many countries at this time). But when your meeting ends you can simply start another one straight away.
WhatsApp appeared some years ago and quickly became a favourite as it allows you to send texts to not just one person, but a group of people at the same time; talk; send photos or video chat with any contact on your phone – whereever they are in the world. (video chats are just limited to 4 people). The app is free to download to any kind of phone and works on wifi or data not mobile signal.
Watch this tutorial on how to download the app to your phone from the Play Store:
You will be able to add all your mobile phone contacts to it and stay connected on a variety of fronts.
Whats App Groups allow a number of people to exchange messages for all members to see. This can be a splendid way of communicating with family, or any mutual interest groups. WhatsApp groups have often been referred to in the news as a method by which even the leaders of the land are staying in touch with each other. This video shows you how to create a group.
WhatsApp on your computer
Once you have WhatsApp on your phone it’s very easy to view and use it on your computer as well (just the texting aspect not video or photo sharing). Go to web.whatsapp.com and it gives you instructions (just remember when it asks you to point your phone at the QR code on the screen, it means point the phone’s camera at the code so the phone can scan the code).
Watch Your Data Usage
The only thing to be aware of with WhatsApp is how much data it uses when you don’t have a wifi connection. Make sure that you don’t go over your monthly limit and incur bills that you are not prepared for.
So take the plunge, download the App and know that you have the capacity to call, video and text your whole family for nothing. Who wouldn’t want that in their back pocket during these difficult times?
And there’s more…
There are many more platforms like Houseparty and Google Duo but we don’t have personal experience of them. Here is the BBC guide to making video calls with WhatsApp (on any device) and FaceTime (on Apple devices).
It can be tricky arranging a time that a group of people can make so Doodle have come up with an easy way for everyone to share when they are available. The cheapest package costs about $50 per year but they offer a free 14 day trial. If you have more than one email address in your household then your first trial is over you could set up another account with another email address.
Technology can be our new best friend, if we can just take a deep breath and slide into a new relationship with it. But don’t let it take over your life!