The Best Free Sites to Connect With Friends and Family

It’s strange, as isolated as you may feel from your friends and family (and the world), suddenly you may find you’re “seeing” a lot more of people lately. What used to be a quick phone call often comes in as a video call. Have you stepped into your living room to find an impromptu family gathering à la facetime? Or has your ongoing group text with friends morphed itself into a daily Zoom happy hour?

It’s a new virtual reality social life, where you can look like you’re all dressed and ready to go on the top and still be in pajama pants on the bottom, or have your parents thinking you’ve really upped your housekeeping game during the quarantine just by tidying one room of your home. Overflowing laundry hamper? Garbage mountain? No one needs to see that.

Whether you’re finding the onslaught of video calls during quarantine a lifesaver or slightly invasive, we can probably all appreciate the capability to connect with loved ones at a time when we have to be apart. Here we’ve rounded up some of the key players in the virtual happy hour game.

FaceTime

So easy to use—as easy as making a phone call—and you can invite multiple people into a call just by texting a button to join. When you have more than a couple people, everyone’s picture starts to float around, making it hard for some to follow a conversation (focus Karen!), but it’s a quick, easy way to connect. And you can still give that friend who ‘swears they like Androids better than iPhones’ a hard time by inescapably excluding them from any FaceTime calls. Apple users only in this club.

Zoom

Just as most people’s job descriptions now consist of ‘Zoom user,’ so do most people’s social lives. Zoom happy hour, anyone? Zoom is easy to use, and you don’t have to have an account to accept a meeting invitation. Though you can only talk for 40 minutes at a time if you don’t have a paid account. But hey, if Uncle Bob starts talking about his quarantine puzzle conquests yet again, this may not be a bad thing.

Marco Polo

You thought you could escape voicemails, didn’t you? This video voicemail app lets you leave friends recorded video messages. It’s convenient if you haven’t had the chance to sync up a time to video chat time with someone, and don’t want to be the ‘surprise video call’ friend. But if you’re one of those people with a perpetually full voicemail box, just don’t download the app and you won’t appear as an option for people to send you messages.

Google Hangouts

Most people have a Gmail account these days (well, maybe not your Android friend still rocking that Yahoo account) so it’s easy to click on your contacts that appear in your chat screen and invite them for a call. You can connect with up to 25 people, send an invitation link and even reminders.

Snapchat

If you’re a big fan of Peek-a-boo the ghost, and adding goofy filters onto your photos, this is the video-call zone for you. It’s a little harder to navigate, so it can be fun to use with your friends already on Snapchat, but not the best way to organize extended family get-togethers.

Whichever platform you choose, enjoy the time connecting with the outside world.

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