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Keep Calm And Carry On Partying (Virtually)

Virtual house parties are booming as the hospitality industry enters lockdown

I caught up with a group of girlfriends this week.

We discussed the craziness of the impending lockdown over a glass (or two) of rosè as our kids ran around and let off some pent-up steam.

We played a bit of trivia, lamented the continual shortage of toilet paper and reminisced about the good old days when we could walk down to Bondi Beach and worry about bluebottles and sunburn rather than contracting a potentially deadly coronavirus.

It felt just like all of the other catch-ups we’d had over summer, with a twist; we were holed up in our respective homes, practising social distancing like law-abiding citizens.

We’re just some of the thousands of twenty and thirty-somethings who have embraced the biggest social media trend since TikTok in recent days – the virtual house party.

House Party, an app which allows multiple contacts to log on and catch up collectively via video, has become the perfect alternative to in-person social catch-ups as the realities of COVID-19 sink in.

The app, which was released in 2016 and last year bought by the company behind cult game Fortnite, has seen an unprecedented surge in users and in recent days, skyrocketing to number one on Apple’s app store social media chart.

It’s similar to platforms such as Zoom or Facetime, with the added bonus of games such as trivia and Ellen Degeneres’ popular Heads Up.

Rozalia Russian and Rebecca Harding are among the Australian influencers who have jumped on the House Party bandwagon, using the app to catch up with friends and chat about how they’re adapting to the current climate.

Instagram Live has also become a popular alternative to real-life hangouts, with US musician DJ D-Nice performing for 4000 viewers including Mary J. Blige, DJ Khaled, Queen Latifah and Naomi Campbell via the platform on Friday night.

Last week This Is Us star Mandy Moore invited her fans to a virtual viewing party to watch the latest episode of the US drama.

“I’m having a house party & you’re invited!” the singer and actor announced on her Twitter feed. “Let’s hang out & live tweet together (virtually of course). As any good guest would, please RSVP with what you’re bringing! We will definitely need tissues for the occasion & my supply is short, so can someone cover? Thanks!!! #thisisus”

With PM Scott Morrison announcing on Sunday night that casinos, restaurants, bars and clubs around the country are now shut for the foreseeable future, it seems virtual socialising will be our new reality for months to come.

We’re still yet to feel the full extent of the economic impact this will have locally and globally as entire hospitality industry shuts down, and it’s a sobering and frankly terrifying thought.

But if our best hope in flattening the curve of COVID-19 and returning to some semblance of normality is to bunker down, switch on and cheers from afar, then I’ll drink to that.

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