Ways to videochat other than Zoom & how to look cute on camera, if you care

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Earlier this week I was getting burnt out on video chats. I’m halfway between introvert and extrovert, so I need alone time and it feels like I’m being forced to socialize in a way that’s more regimented and less rewarding. Two weeks ago I joined a women’s group chat that meets for an hour every weekday. On Tuesday I decided I had technical problems about fifteen minutes in. There were 30 people there, I doubt they missed me. The chats were good but an hour a day is a big commitment I no longer want to make. I have sh-t to do in my house and for my job! I’ve also been Zoom videochatting with some of my friends at home and some of my Twitter friends. I look forward to those because it’s nice to socialize and is so rare to meet people who know and love gossip like I do.

Prior to this I was familiar with Zoom as I’ve used it for meetings. I’ve also used Google Hangouts, Facetime, What’s App, Skype and Bumble. When dating I always ask guys to videochat first so I can see they’re the same person, if they show up on time and are relatively normal. If they won’t videochat me first, I won’t meet them. Now videochatting is hopefully the only way people are meeting. This is just my layperson’s review of each app along with some minor tips you may already know. I’m trying to keep doing lifestyle-type posts now that we’re taking a break on the Amazon posts.

Looking good on camera
If you want to look good on camera, use the camera on your desktop computer or laptop. I’ve heard people say that Zoom has magic filters that make everyone look better. (They do, but I’ve never used them.) I also think you look better when the camera is at a stable angle. If you’re using your phone to video chat, prop it up on something and test the lighting and angles before you talk to someone. I prop my phone on my laptop if I’m videochatting from it. Also do your hair and makeup if you normally go out that way. I’m a fussy bitch and the Zoom chats are giving me motivation to get ready every day. You may not care and that’s cool, I wish I was like that. Also test out how you look on video before you call the person. Most apps have an option to do that, including skype and hangouts, or you can just use the camera on your phone or computer. The Boston Globe has an article about lighting if you’re into that, but I just make sure there are no harsh lights behind me and look at myself on camera before the call.

Google Hangouts
Prior to Zoom I used Google Hangouts. You can use it on your computer or on the app on your phone, but the drawback is that everyone needs to have a gmail account. Hangouts is free and you can have group chats with multiple people no problem. The best advantage of Hangouts is that you can use it to test how you look first! On your computer, go to hangouts.google.com, hit “video call” without choosing anyone, and you can get your position and lighting right before you invite other people.

Facetime
The other day I Facetimed the wrong number and ended up talking to a teenage girl who was working at Dominos. It was hilarious and we were laughing about it. I thanked her for working at this time. Of course you can only use Facetime if you have an iPhone or a Mac device. I have an Android but I still use my ancient Macbook air for Facetiming friends. If you don’t want someone to have your real phone number you can set up a new Facetime account as a throwaway. Some people say everyone looks terrible on Facetime, and this is true if you’re using a phone. A lot of that is angles and lighting though.

Zoom
Everyone is using Zoom for individual and group chats for good reason. It’s super easy to set up, easy to use, you just send someone a link and it installs. I’ve noticed some lag with Zoom lately but that may be my internet and also the fact that I’m looking to end chats early. Oh no there’s lag, got to go! I like using Zoom on my computers but there’s an app for it too of course. It’s free but if you want to chat to more than one person at once it shuts the chat off after 40 minutes. You can just set up another chat every 40 minutes if you don’t want to pay $14.99 a month.

What’s App
What’s App is a favorite for free texting, voice and video calling, especially overseas. More Americans are using it now and it connects to your contacts, letting you know which friends are also on What’s App. You can do group video chats on What’s App, as long as everyone has the app. I only just realized this, but there’s a desktop version! I’m going to install that for my friends/dates who want to use it. I don’t like videochatting on What’s App because I prefer the computer to my phone.

Skype
Skype is an old school video chatting app. The picture is often really clear and crisp. It offers free person-to-person and group video chats. I’ve used it a few times and it’s decent, I just prefer the interface on Zoom and Google Hangouts.

Amazon Alexa/Echo
For family members and people you call frequently, Amazon Alexa is excellent. I know there are privacy concerns with this device. I have an Echo Show in my kitchen and use it to listen to Sirius and videochat with my mom and my son’s dad. It might be worth getting a couple for you and a loved one to stay in touch at this point. This reminds me to call my mom later!

Thanks for reading all this and please let me know if you have any tips or other apps you use. There’s one affiliate link the Echo Show above.

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Photos credit: Andrea Piacquadio, Marek Levak, Andrea Piacquadio and Ruca Souzafrom Pexels

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37 Responses to “Ways to videochat other than Zoom & how to look cute on camera, if you care”

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  1. ChellyPie says:

    I really don’t care about looking cute. The only person I care to video chat with is my father who is isolating alone in Pennsylvania w this horrid virus while I have to stay where I am in Las Vegas. It’s been a nightmare from the start and all I do worry. Thank you, however, CB, these little distractions matter

    • Cinnaber214 says:

      Thinking of you and your dad Chelly. You’re strong and can get through this.

    • Ivy Rose says:

      I’m so sorry, that must be terrible, Chelly. Take good care of yourself as you virtual caregive from a distance. Sending good thoughts your way.

  2. Jess says:

    I’ve been having weekly zoom meetings with my girlfriends and I love it.We’ll set up a time on Friday nights and everyone jumps in and out when we can. My 12 year old daughter is currently using it upstairs with her group of girls and it’s hilariously cute to me. Makes me appreciate my friends more honestly. I miss them, miss seeing them in person and miss hugging them. I think of myself as an introvert and I need A LOT of alone time, but this is extreme even for me. I’m shocked by how much I miss stranger interactions too, the few times I’ve been to the store I notice I don’t look people in the eyes or smile anymore, they don’t either. I think we’re all scared and navigating new personal boundaries and I’m too busy trying to stay 6 feet away, especially from older people!

    • Tate says:

      I do the same with my friends. We have a virtual happy hour scheduled for tomorrow at 5:00. It is good to laugh with friends in the midst of all of this.

    • Some chick says:

      I went to the grocery store about a week ago, and people were being really cool about keeping a safe distance, and we were all smiling and nodding at each other in appreciation. More so than normal, seemed like.

      Of course there was one family that came in, wearing hospital grade masks, and walking three abreast right down the center of the aisle with no care for anyone else, while the rest of us stayed as far to the side as possible or simply went around to another aisle. They had one of those confederate flag stickers proudly displayed on their oversized pickup too – shocking! There’s one (or three) in every crowd. Jerks.

      It took twice as long as usual to grab a few things (yay, fresh greens!) but it felt really good that most everyone was looking out for one another.

      Strange days indeed.

    • (TheOG) jan90067 says:

      My friends and I are playing Mah Jong online and either video or phone conferencing in. It’s a lot of fun; almost like being at the same card table lol. As for what we look like? None of us has worn make-up or a bra since this started LOL… And two haven’t been able to color their hair…. who cares?? We have to do whatever we can to get through this!

      Love to everyone!

  3. Other Renee says:

    FaceTime for individual conversations and Zoom for meetings or larger gatherings. I pay the $14.99 per month so I can go longer than forty minutes. We’ve been FaceTiming with my daughter and her fiancé while watching Jeopardy all together. We watch the live version so that we’re synced. Our rule is no answering before Alex finishes reading the question so we really need to be synced. Then we chat when the show is over. They really want to see our dogs so we focus the camera on them. Hearing their voices and seeing them on the phone kind of freaks the dogs out I think but they’re getting used to it. It’s been really nice.

  4. Celebitchy says:

    Ooh does anyone have any ideas/tips for games you can play over videochat?

    • Jensies says:

      My friends and I watched space jam over video chat and it was great. We didn’t use Netflix Party, I think I’ll do that next time. I think my girlfriend in Berlin and I are going to watch geostorm next. Video chat is great for terrible movies!

    • Sally Sunshine says:

      @celebitchy Look into the Houseparty app!! You can play games and trivia with multiple people. It’s fun.

    • Ivy Rose says:

      My sister & nephew played Scattergories with my parents and said it went well. Depending on ages, MadLibs or Pictionary would work. Our therapist is going to play Uno with my son next week – each of them will use their own deck. She said you can play lots of games on video, which I’d never thought of.

      I don’t like taking selfies or seeing myself on video chat. Everything feels overwhelming & scary, I shouldn’t be so vain. But I should also take care of myself so I feel better & am more likely to reach out. Thanks for the tips, CB. Take good care, everyone. These are such hard times. Little things can provide some relief. Deep breaths.

    • (TheOG) jan90067 says:

      We play Mah Jong and either video or phone conf. in. It’s like we’re still playing together every week.

      My family and I also do Shabbat together over FT. We also started doing this anytime we want to talk, instead of just phoning. It helps to feel more “connected” as we can’t physically see them due to exposure.

  5. MeghanNotMarkle says:

    My kids are using Google Meet for their classes and we like it. But if we need to talk to family or friends we use Google Hangouts. We’re Android people in this house.

    • Esmom says:

      I’m a Mac person and I prefer Google Hangouts to Zoom. Although I do have one friend where we have trouble with it for some odd reason. It’s fine with everyone else. I like the interface better than Zoom. And the gimmicky backgrounds in Zoom are distracting to me.

  6. Jules says:

    I’ve used all of these over the years, and Zoom is by far the best—clearest video, best reception. I’ve heard hackers have been hacking into meetings recently but hopefully all security issues have been fixed by now.

    • Other Renee says:

      Jules, you can adjust the settings to increase security, such as turn off screen sharing by anyone but the host, require the use of a password for entry, etc. There are articles online that will help with that.

      • Jules says:

        Thanks much! I just got an email from Zoom with info on updated security settings. Zoom away :)

  7. Janet says:

    Duo is also good and according to the techie friend who introduced me to it, it has the best video quality

  8. KellyRyan says:

    So Cool. :) My age is showing. Video Skyped 15 years ago when I was in the office. In these times when we so need to remain connected, nice to know there are so many options. Thanks for all the recommendations.

  9. ana says:

    I teach a class to my grad students this semester and with the pandemic going, we had to move to Zoom to complete the lectures on time for this term. Anyway last time I barely made it on time to my video conference (children yelling at home, desperate to go out) only to realize on camera, in front of my students, that my very curly hair was a mess, sticking out of its pony tail everywhere, like it had a life of its own … I said f-k it let’s talk environmental impact lol

  10. adastraperaspera says:

    Although Zoom is headquarted in Silicon Valley, their main engineering and R&D teams are based in China. So it’s probable that using it results in your data and images being cached by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and used for research on things such as facial recognition (which is being used to control Uighurs and Hong Kong citizens). I think this is a bigger problem with it than random hackers breaking into meetings. The recent FBI warnings coupled with my concerns about the aggressive moves by CCP in this space keep me from using Zoom.

  11. Faithmobile says:

    My kids have a daily meeting with friends to play Minecraft together while on Zoom. Today we are hosting a talent show on Zoom. I personally like the 40 min. Time limit on Zoom it helps control screen time for the kids and honestly it’s enough time. We use google hangouts for texting on the computer and whats app for my meditation group challenge. FaceTime for chats with grandma and occasionally Skype with friends. I have become the household IT specialist. Brave new world indeed.

  12. Kate says:

    I’ve done a few zoom chats with friends and family but find it difficult to engage the same way you do in person. If I’m hanging out in person with a group of 6 or more people, there’s always the loud talkers and then there’s me carrying on a side convo with someone next to me. Can’t really do that on zoom because you have to like shout to drown everyone out and get their attention. Also, all the noise from everyone talking over each other or just the background noise from however many different people’s devices is really distracting and takes me out of it. I wish I was having better luck with it. I did have a Facetime call with my bff last weekend and that was nice. I didn’t realize until now how much just walking by people on the street and at work gave me little doses of social stimulation that you can’t easily replicate virtually. Now it’s like “we will have a call” whereas before I would just go to the bathroom at work and say hi to 3 people on the way and get that little boost.

    • Esmom says:

      I know what you mean. I’ve been having twice weekly chats with a group of friends and a couple have emerged as the dominant talkers. Last call I realized I was silent almost the whole time because there was never a good time to jump in to the conversation without feeling like I would be overbearing.

      I also miss the little human interactions we have throughout the day and which I’d taken for granted until now.

    • Jules says:

      Yea that’s a lot. I’ve found that one on one is better than a phone call, more intimate. Three people video-ing at once is max, after that it gets to be too much.

  13. manda says:

    Omg I hate skyping and all the video stuff but luckily no one has asked me to do it. My job lets us use skype without the camera so rock on.

    I wanted to comment on your comment about trying to do lifestyle posts now that you aren’t doing the amazon posts: thank you so much! I love these posts and I love Celebitchy’s content in general. Thank you so much!

  14. GR says:

    Lifestyle posts will be fun! I really appreciate something that’s a little frivolous right now!
    And if you feel like it, the Fug Girls have been doing very enjoyable throwback stories, which would I think would be interesting here, too.

  15. Snazzy says:

    I used to use Skype for work and personal chats with friend around the world but stopped using it since it got bought out by Microsoft. It’s the worst now. I find the picture is never stable or clear, and I always have sound issues, when other platforms work perfectly. I read that Microsoft is phasing it out for Microsoft Teams instead. I use Teams for my work but it makes my laptop overheat for some reason. The can goes haywire while I’m using it. I’ll stick to Zoom or Hangouts, for work and socializing

  16. Lasagna Jones says:

    Y’all, the kids are using Houseparty and it’s pretty fun. There’s trivia and drawing games, etc. I’ve had a few happy hour hangouts with friends. Surprised it didn’t make this list. Except we’re kinda old- I know about it bc a friend of a friend shared; she’s a pediatrician and her teenage patients told her about it. Lol.

  17. Rtms says:

    Use Houseparty, it’s just as good, doesn’t seem to mine your data and way more affordable
    https://houseparty.com/, multi platform as well

  18. Jenn says:

    My husband and I use Facebook Portal to stay in touch with his parents, sister, and her kids; we really like it for that.

    Skype actually does screen-and-audio sharing (and it’s much better at it than Zoom, incidentally!). My husband shared his gaming-laptop screen so we could play Jackbox games with our friends in London yesterday. It worked really well!

    And I just installed Marco Polo after hearing Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler talk about it on Late Night — it’s like video voicemail, which just seems a lot less stressful than the “always-on” nature of Houseparty. (I also recently bought my first-ever tripod for my phone, since it’s lookin’ like I’ll be indoors for a while.)