Apéro goes online

As the days of confinement wear on, people are coming up with creative ways to beat the boredom. One such idea is to “meet up” with multiple friends using one of the new apps or video conferencing sites – glass of wine optional.

About a week ago, I was bombarded with a number of requests to join Houseparty. Having no idea what it was, I was a little wary of it. Was this some post-apocalyptic bug running rampant through everyone’s computers? Was it some creepy app that kept subscribers always available to others in the group?  

After a bit of research, I found it was far less sinister. Houseparty is simply an app that allows for face to face social networking with one or more people. Like its more grown-up cousins, Zoom and Google Meet, it means that you can be online with friends and chatting, almost as if you were in the same room.

As a way of combatting the fear, depression and isolation that some people are suffering with during this confinement period, these applications are changing people’s perspectives and pulling them out of funks by getting friends together, regardless of whether they live next door or on the other side of the globe.

How it works is straightforward. Friends arrange a pre-scheduled meeting time, then the “host” logs on and invites friends to join using an email address or mobile phone number. The friends click ‘join’ and voila! People are now face to face with one or more friends and can chat for hours – for free.

Apéro seems to be the most common excuse for these get togethers. Unless that is just me, which unleashes a frightening commentary on my life and friends (to be explored at another time). In any case, it seems more and more people are grabbing a glass of wine and a bowl of crisps and settling into these get togethers to talk about everything under the sun. It is a much needed respite from the never-ending days that come with lockdown.

One of the more charming aspects of the “Zoom Boom” is that a particular time of day is set aside – as for a meeting with work. No one is busy doing other things and people are actually paying attention to each other involved in the chat, not endlessly glancing at their phones or distractedly checking messages.

The social and cultural aspect of this feels as if we have come full circle. All we needed was a particularly virulent virus and to be completely cut off from our normal lives for people to behave properly and with a certain amount of decorum. Dedicating time to speak to and be with those we care about is an old-fashioned notion in this high-speed world. Perhaps we will be able to transition back to normality using the same principles we are learning from this and continue our apéro with friends who are near and far, long after the lockdown has passed.

Photo: Zoom