Social distancing sucks. Sure it’s extremely important, but I already have a severe case of cabin fever. I’m feeling deprived of stale nightclub air and social interaction. Let me out of this menagerie that I call my home!
To combat this, I challenged myself to a messy night out… online. If Zoom is for online classrooms and office workers, and BIGO Live is for deros, then I’d have to settle for Houseparty, the app for mates to video chat with one another in a pinch. This turned out to be much easier said than done.
Out of my 600-odd facebook friends and countless phone contacts, only around 20 people had Houseparty. Almost all of them were people I hadn’t spoken to (let alone thought of) in the last five years. The remaining handful were hookups whose numbers were still in my address book. I’d be friendly if I bumped into them IRL but adding them on Houseparty felt a little bit too much.
Were these really people I’d want to video chat with unannounced? Houseparty’s functionality of being able to see the face of any friend who is online is great in theory, but I’m not really keen on doing that to someone who I had forgotten about up until this moment.
Nevertheless, I bit the bullet and added a couple of people who I thought were still fun. None of them replied, and judging by their blank profiles, I got the impression they’d deleted the app long ago.
I decided to have a crack at convincing friends to get the app instead. I hoped that it’d be more fun than our usual Messenger chats. We could get pissed and play trivia or Heads Up! Or just scream over each other like IRL. Surely this would be the ideal way to have a messy night out while socially distancing.
What I hadn’t anticipated was that my mates would be such haters! Nobody could be bothered to download an extra app. Nobody could even be bothered to humour me. That second point cut deep.
I reached out to a bunch of people, both individually and in group chats. I’d never had so many people simultaneously leave me on read, or worse, not even open my messages. Ouch.
Then came the phone calls. Unlike a message, you can’t leave a phone call on ‘read’. I instead got a bunch of excuses as to why nobody would go on Houseparty with me. Of course, what excuses actually hold up when the whole country is in social isolation?
Maybe I could party with strangers, or so I thought. I went on Twitter and searched “add me on houseparty”. The problem is, I couldn’t chat with any of these people until they accepted my request which a) they had no reason to because I’m a total internet stranger and b) would take longer my anticipated messy night out online has time for.
Most of these people were also Americans. That’s fine, I have nothing against those people. Some are even my friends! But timezone differences didn’t bode well for my plan which included the word “night” in the title.
All this kerfuffle with strangers does make sense. The app’s designed for keeping in touch with close friends, not to be a ripoff of Omegle.
At last someone accepted my request! I started a video chat with them immediately. On Houseparty, the other person doesn’t need to accept or decline, rather I can just instigate a video chat like that.
The things I saw in this chat were not consistent with what I imagine to be a messy night out. Perhaps the morning after, but not when you’re with mates in the club.
I went back to Twitter to see who exactly I had followed. It was an eclectic bunch, but the person who had ended up accepting my request was a porn account. Hmmm.
There’s nothing wrong with running a porn Twitter account. There’s also nothing wrong with using Houseparty to have phone sex with multiple randoms at once. But it just wasn’t what I was looking for. Not now, not ever.
Unlike Zoom, where I could’ve joined one of the countless online events open to the public, I was more or less limited to my own contacts on Houseparty. In hindsight, depending on them was foolish.
Hacking allegations aside, Houseparty is a great app to use. I liked the interface and the whole premise is just really damn fun. It’s a shame I had no one to share it with.
Maybe I was naive to think I could have a big night on Houseparty. I video chat every day, and have done so since long before the lockdown. But my usual video chats are like a face-to-face phone call, not a virtual gatho.
Instead of seeing beautiful faces, all that came up on my screen were a bunch of dumb animal facts and conversion starters which reminded my of my own chronic loneliness. No Houseparty, I don’t care if a butterfly tastes with its feet. I don’t care if a group of rhinos is called a crash.
Perhaps trying to recreate a messy night out online is too much of an obtuse novelty for people to get on board with. Maybe my friends just suck (probably). Maybe I’m just a boring dude (less likely). Either way, Houseparty isn’t going to replace video chatting on Messenger or WhatsApp. That’s not even the point. Instead, people will have to open their minds to a different kind of functionality. Built it and people will come, supposedly.
I thought an app would be all that I needed to fix my self-isolation social life, but in reality I probably just need better friends.