Some activities groups of friends did together before quarantine are easy to replicate on virtual formats. For example, Ellison told me that her book-club meetings, during which participants are used to taking turns speaking, have translated quite naturally to Zoom. (My own much less dignified version: I recently discovered that certain drinking games I used to play with my college friends—especially those involving a deck of cards that’s handled by only one dealer—can be played perfectly well over videochat.)
Some people have already devised new, surprising ways to enjoy one another’s company remotely with the tools at hand. I was recently invited to participate in a virtual reading of Shakespeare, for example, by some friends who weren’t previously in the habit of getting together to read classic plays. My colleague Julie Beck wrote about a group of friends who hosted a PowerPoint party, in which they took turns presenting amusing (or amusingly self-serious) slide presentations on topics of their choice. For that kind of event, Zoom’s screen-share feature handily facilitates an activity that might actually be harder to pull off in the physical world. Meanwhile, the browser extension Netflix Party—which lets friends sync up movies and TV on Netflix and chat as they watch—saw a surge in search-engine interest in late March, around the time that many shelter-in-place protocols went into effect. Ellison predicted we may soon see people inventing ways to signal that they’re up for an aimless break-room- or bar-style chat, perhaps by signing in to a teleconferencing app, sharing the link with friends, and seeing who pops in.