The 3 Best Free Video Chat Apps to Virtually Socialise with in 2020

Challenging times, like #Lockdown has the ability to bring out both the best and the worst in people. If social media streams are anything to judge by, the mindset of the average online South African appears generally positive. People are concerned, but they are being sensible and practicing social distancing. They are cooking and exercising, getting their hands dirty in the garden, educating their kids, and creating and sharing hilarious and inspirational videos.

Thanks to the internet, those able to work from home are keeping the mantra: "business as usual", by joining on conference calls, meetings and maintaining deadlines. On a deeper, more emotional, level groups of families and friends are using video chat software to socialise virtually (virtualise, if you will). If you haven't yet explored the world of video calling, let's help.

Here are our Top 3 Video Chat apps:

  1. WhatsApp: Perhaps one of the easiest methods as most people use WhatsApp for messaging already. To start a video gathering, simply video call someone and add participants in the top right corner. Important: Make sure your phone is updated to the latest operating system.

  2. Skype: To start or join a video call, participants using Skype don't need to log in or use the app, but can just use the web to "Chat now". Simply generate a link and share it with participants. The software also offers full screen HD video and background blur.

  3. Zoom: The free membership allows for video meetings of up to 100 participants, with unlimited group meetings of up to 40 min each. Zoom has made the news recently with some security issues, which they are rapidly fixing.

Tips to "virtualise" better

Virtual gatherings are a hoot. On the flip side though, they can also be... what's the word... stressful... annoying... awkward?! There is always someone who doesn't know how the app works, someone experiencing technical difficulty, and several people talking at the same time... or worse, nobody talking at all.

Try some of these tips for the best, less stressful virtual experience:

  • Schedule it ahead of time: Yes, that spur of the moment face-to-face "cheers" sounds awesome in theory, but give the others a little heads-up, will you? They might need to take a few minutes to set up their devices, look presentable, or run to the loo. Know what we mean...

  • Position yourself close to the wi-fi or sit in the area in your home with the best signal: Of course it is lovely to have a beautiful backdrop for your friends and family to admire. Your beautiful garden, or that lit fire... but if it compromises the quality of the call, don't do it.

  • Use your laptop or tablet: Phones are of course great to use too, but if you are more than 3 people it is difficult to see everyone on one small screen.

  • Take turns to talk: Yes, we live in the digital age, but unfortunately everyone might not have the fastest fibre lines installed. Take turns to talk and expect some delays.

  • Less is more: The whole family or an entire group of friends on one call sounds cool. It also looks lovely on that screengrab you took and posted to social media. But the truth of it is, you didn't really hear what your Mum said about her new veggie patch and you are pretty sure several of the members weren't able to get a word in edgeways. Sure, do the big virtual thing, but don't let it drag on longer than needed. We suggest you rather opt for smaller, more frequent virtual gatherings.

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Happy "virtualising"!