Header Ads

Breaking News

Can the Houseparty app help us stay sane in quarantine? I downloaded it to find out | Sanjna N Singh | Opinion

Last week, my friends and I were squeezed into a booth at Heyn’s, an ice cream shop in Iowa City. While the coronavirus was on everyone’s mind – we were liberally spritzing from my home-made bottle of hand sanitizer – hardcore social distancing had not descended upon the town yet.

As we ate our cups of butter brickle, I felt Aimee stiffen by my side. She pointed her chin at the door, her face a mask of distress. I followed her gaze to see a little boy wholeheartedly licking the doorknob. We watched in horrified fascination.

“This is what happens,” Aimee sighed, “When you spare the rod.”

That was our last “in real life” night together. After we elbowed our way out the door and hugged goodbye, the University of Iowa moved classes online and we tucked ourselves, reluctantly, into our respective homes.

“Who’s up for a virtual happy hour?” Marisa texted the group a few days later.

“In!” we said, thoroughly sick of our own company. After a lot of back and forth about platforms, I suggested we download Houseparty.

Houseparty had gotten a lot of attention among the under-24 set when it first started back in 2016. Its CEO, Sima Sistani, touted it as the “next best thing to hanging out in real life”. It had been installed by 35 million users (40% of whom were outside the US.) In subsequent years, however, downloads of the app had declined – that is, until the pandemic. Downloads in March 2020 were the highest of the year. Twitter confirmed Houseparty’s re-emergence into public consciousness: “Everyone is back on Houseparty. It’s 2017 again.” “Make Houseparty great again!” “Who’s down to get Houseparty again and get this social distancing lit?”

Ready to get literally anything lit, I persuaded everyone to download the app and meet up in an hour. I brought out the wine, sent my new username out and waited. Slowly people started popping up on my phone screen. We broke into smiles and all started speaking at once. The audio immediately became a garbled mess.

“Dammit!” I shouted. “Y’all broke Houseparty!”

The audio did smooth out shortly after, but kept dropping intermittently, probably due to my slow internet. This might have been a blessing, as I believe I missed a whole section about how Ian didn’t use soap in the shower.

“Just a vigorous blast on the pits” is all I heard.

“Vox said this is gonna last 18 months,” Jeremy said.

“What we are really finding out from this coronavirus is what everyone’s news source is,” Aimee said. “Mine is y’all.”

Jeremy tapped a pair of dice on top of the screen, that launched a trivia game. We all tapped fast and furious on answers to questions like: what was the name of Cady’s high school in Mean Girls (Answer: North Shore.) There was a lot of yelling and laughter and then the game ended. I started thinking about dinner.

“I ordered a pizza last night,” I said. “We drove to the pizza place but they didn’t let us in. They asked us to roll down the window and threw the pizza at us.”

We laughed and for a brief moment it felt like we were all at the Dandy Lion again, joking over cheeseburgers. Shortly after, we signed off. It was dinnertime, tacos had to be made, soylent consumed.

Seeing my friends via Houseparty didn’t feel normal – not by a long shot – but it did seem to lift, somewhat, the isolation I was feeling. That glass (or two) of wine felt much better when it was shared, even if just on a screen. My friends agreed. (Well, all except the one who doesn’t use soap.) The games were too easy, he thought.

“You try being a competitive virtual playground in the age of corona,” Jeremy joked.

Games notwithstanding, faced with an indefinite period of social distancing, I’m pretty sure we’ll all jump back on to Houseparty in a day or so. If nothing else, it’ll give me a reason to brush my hair.

Source link

No comments