Since the coronavirus has sent people into self-quarantine and social distancing, many people have been yearning for social contact. Thankfully, there are plenty of programs available for video calls with friends and family to help ease that yearning. One program, in particular, Zoom, has been getting a lot of attention and use, because it is completely free and you can set up calls with multiple people, having parties.
People have been having birthday parties on Zoom, dinner parties, board game nights, and much more. When you join a Zoom party, you are greeted to a screen view that is reminiscent of the opening theme song in The Brady Bunch. These parties can be difficult, especially if they are bigger parties because there is no way for people to have side conversations like people normally would at a party. This means that sometimes people may get talked over or things may get chaotic when trying to keep the conversation going.
What to do in a Zoom Party
You will want to invite fewer people than normal for a Zoom party so that there is not too much chaos. When you send out invitations, space out the arrival times a little bit so that there are not just suddenly 15 people arriving at once. This will give you time to greet people as they arrive and introduce people who have not met before. For example, say your party is starting at six and you need to send everyone the URL to join the party. At 5:50 send out a couple of invitations, then at 5:52, and so on every two or three minutes until everyone is there.
Zoom allows you to change your backgrounds, and even upload custom ones. Asking everyone to come in with a fun background can be a good ice breaker to get conversation moving, as everyone chats about what silly background they have chosen.
To keep things fun and interesting, you can have a theme party, with costumes, period-specific clothing, or even formal wear. Of course, they can always wear pajama pants with their tuxedo top, since no one will know otherwise.
You can set up a Happy Hour on Zoom with your friends to enjoy their favorite drinks together to blow off steam after work. You can also play some drinking games together digitally, though some of them may be difficult when you are not in person.
Dinner parties are popular as well, though everyone has to cook their own meal unless you have everything delivered to your guests from the same restaurant. With a dinner party, people will often set up a table in front of their screen to give the appearance of everyone eating at the same table together.
If you have a friend you love baking with, you can do it together through Zoom, putting everything together at the same time, then enjoying it at the same time. It may not be quite the same, but it is better than nothing.
Board games are doable on Zoom, depending on the game. You can have one camera pointed at the game board and everyone tells you where to move their pieces to. There are also digital board games that can be multiplayer. Some have also enjoyed having the Zoom party going and playing video games together.
Zoom Birthday Party
Last month, Eleanor Dolan celebrated her 17th birthday on Zoom with 20 of her friends. When it was time for them to sing “Happy Birthday” to here, Dolan held up a slice of cheesecake and pretended to blow out her candle. Her friends all had their own cakes nearby with lit candles, and when Dolan blew at her computer screen, her friends all extinguished candles along with her.
This is just one example of a Zoom birthday party; plenty of people seem to be having similar gatherings.
One problem that people have encountered with Zoom is “Zoombombers,” who will randomly pop into public gatherings and stir up trouble. Zoom’s default setting allows anyone in a meeting to share their screen with everybody in the chat.
Last month, Chipotle was hosting a large public event with the musician Lauv, which was going great, until a Zoombomber popped in and began streaming pornography to the rest of the attendees, which brought an abrupt end to the gathering and prompted Chipotle to move its next gathering to a different platform.
Another Zoom event hosted by journalists Kara Swisher and Jessica Lessin was Zoombomber by someone streaming the infamous video “2 Girls 1 Cup.” Lessin tweeted that the person was “switching between different user accounts so we could not block them.” They had to reschedule the event and make it audio-only.
The platform has said they are working to correct these privacy issues to prevent this from happening.
Lessin, Jessica. “We Will Find an Audio-Only Version and Schedule for next Week. Thank You @Karaswisher! So Sad That This Is Happening Online Already.” Twitter, Twitter, 20 Mar. 2020, twitter.com/Jessicalessin/status/1241087826927554560.
Lorenz, Taylor, et al. “We Live in Zoom Now.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Mar. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/03/17/style/zoom-parties-coronavirus-memes.html.
Lorenz, Taylor. “’Zoombombing’: When Video Conferences Go Wrong.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Mar. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/style/zoombombing-zoom-trolling.html.