7 Technology Tools That Are Keeping Us Connected
Never has the world been in such a time of connected crisis. The world is suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic as one planet.
In 2020, as the world is going into shutdown and lockdown, we are all glued to screens, and connected by online social networks. We all hope, pray, and worry about what the best solution is. For many of us, all we can do is stay indoors and adjust to the new way of life.
The online communication channels we’ve begun to take for granted are (for many people) the only way they are staying safe and sane.
One blessing of the current time we live in is the technology that we have available. Had a crisis like this hit the world 25 years ago, we only had telephones and televisions to communicate. The ability to share and influence outcomes would have been greatly reduced. But today, all of us can reach out to others through incredible technology tools that are available to us.
In this article, I wanted to share some of the best ways to stay connected with online tools and apps so you can keep up to date and reduce the feeling of isolation. Some are for work, some are for fun, but all can help you, your team, and your family.
The whole world right now seems to be depending on video chat and conferencing tools to do business. While there are several tools available (Skype, GoToMeeting, Join.Me, Google Hangouts), the company that has cornered the market is Zoom.
Zoom offers cross-platform video calls and is currently free for unlimited one-to-one calls. For groups of up to 100 people, the free version limits calls to 40 minutes. If you want to use the recording features, the pricing is quite reasonable. The pro plan starts at $14.99 a month and allows 1GB of cloud recording space. You can also speak on zoom calls for up to 24 hours at a time for up to 100 participants.
While few people can explain precisely how Slack works, once you use it, you will immediately understand the benefits. Slack offers an online bulletin board, a group IM (Instant message) platform, and a document sharing tool all rolled into one. It’s like a telepathic link to everyone on your team all at once.
The biggest benefit of Slack is that it offers asynchronous communication with a whole team. The ability to create #channels means you can focus on one specific topic as a group. You can also have one-to-one conversations with individual slack chats.
Perhaps the best aspect of Slack is that it saves a lot of emails. Instead of having to reply to simple questions in a huge email thread, you can reply with a quick message.
Slack is a free tool for up to 10,000 messages, and beyond that, you can pay $8 a month for a pro membership. The paid plans also offer the ability to make phone and video calls directly inside of Slack.
One technology tool we all have in abundance is messenger apps. Ever since text messaging became the default form of communication, we have all downloaded every single app.
While texting on platforms like Android and iOS are very popular, the biggest messaging app in the world is WhatsApp. In late 2019, WhatsApp had over 1.6 Billion users, while other platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Telegram lagged behind.
The reason for WhatsApp’s popularity is that it works across all platforms and devices. Owned by Facebook, WhatsApp also offers enhanced privacy features, like end-to-end encryption, and its free, web-based international calling.
Perhaps the most appealing feature of WhatsApp is that the app lets you make audio and video calls, and send documents, photos, and videos. WhatsApp is completely free, with no fees or subscriptions. And because it uses your phone’s 4G, 3G, or Wi-Fi connection instead of your cellphone’s voice minutes or text plan, it is a great way to stay connected.
During the past five years, Facebook has morphed from being a popular social media platform into a media behemoth. Every day more than 1.6 billion people log onto Facebook. But the main news feed posts are no longer the most valuable part of Facebook.
A few years ago, Facebook began to offer a new way for people to connect around interests. Facebook Groups are the best way to find like-minded people that share your interests and passions.
Most Facebook Groups are public and easy to join. However, some require membership to be authorized by an admin. Once inside the group, you are free to share ideas, ask questions, and comment on posts similar to the main news feed. However, the big benefit of Facebook groups is they create a sense of community. When you get to talk with other like-minded people, it helps you to create new friendships and connections.
The problem with a lot of online video communication is that it requires somebody to be available to chat. You have to schedule a time or attempt to reach them randomly.
Marco Polo solves this problem by allowing people to send each other video messages in a walkie-talkie format. You can have private one-to-one messages, or you can create Marco Polo groups to share and reply together.
The benefit of Marco Polo is that you can give a visual and audio experience for people who are not close to you. Your contacts can reply when they have time, and the conversation continues ad infinitum. For friends and families who are at a distance from each other, the Marco Polo app is a great tool to help share experiences and stay connected via video.
For those of us stuck at home alone, or missing remote family and friends, there is an awesome app that makes it easier to connect with everyone.
Houseparty is a group video chatting app that allows people to drop by and chat whenever they are free. Downloads have grown to over 10 Million on Android and iPhone. The reason is that the technology is surprisingly easy to use, and helps to keep a group of people connected. As a bonus, you can play games and do trivia contests inside the app with a group of people.
More than anything, Houseparty helps to make you feel like you are in a group of friends when you are stuck at home alone or with a small group of family.
With all the free time that people have now at home, one platform that has seen a surge in use is Twitch. A live streaming platform for gaming and chatting, Twitch has grown in popularity over the past few years to now have over 15 Million daily viewers.
Even if you’re not a video game enthusiast, Twitch offers many other types of live streams to view and interact with. From simple live chat rooms to painting, music, crafts, cooking, exercise, and much more.
Twitch offers users a virtual community to connect with during these isolating times and a way to get some free entertainment.
Staying Together, Separately
While we all navigate these uncharted waters, it is comforting to know that we are in this together. These seven communication tools will help all of us are looking to stay safe and to keep our spirits up. For many businesses, using these tools can help to reconnect with your customers while they are stuck at home, and find new ways to serve. For each of us humans, the ability to reach out and share this time together is what makes it worthwhile.