Houseparty: The app for the social-distancing age

By Jess C on 3 April 2020

As of April 2020, the words, ‘Download Houseparty!’ became the new ‘Add me on Insta?’ It’s the social call to action of an international community living through isolation.

While Zoom may have emerged as a major player and the video conferencing solution for the 9-5 gang (as well as those crazy ‘Zoomers’), Houseparty is the [man] of the hour at a time when people want to ‘do’ something social, and not just stare at the webcam and vent about their crippling coronavirus anxiety and workplace woes.

Using the user’s address book, the app taps straight in and enables immediate connections to friends online. Up to eight people can enter a chat at one time, and when the ‘door’ to a house party is left unlocked, friends of friends can join in the conversation. The first time I tried it myself, admittedly after a few glasses of wine, my brain nearly melted from all the stimuli.

What’s remarkable is its sense of social spontaneity. No need for meeting IDs, a dialling tone, or any odd covers of Spice Girls songs Your party can have a quiz or play rounds of trivia, all augmented by its in-app games.

But this app has been around for a while, having emerged way back in 2017 out of Meerkat, a live video streaming product that launched in 2015. And back then, it was full of ephemeral content – but then Snapchat came along, Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories, etc… So, the necessity for new ephemeral content in our feeds wasn’t really there.

But now that society is dealing with the sudden anxiety of not being able to connect with people face-to-face for weeks, we want to have live conversations. We want to live in the moment. And to everyone I’ve ever cancelled plans with, I’m so sorry. New me, right here. 

Houseparty has exploded in the wider social landscape – even with an uptick in those private IG profiles, WhatsApp, and private, community-driven Facebook groups. In the age of social-distancing, the app is riding its second wave of growth. And once this pandemic (hopefully) blows over, I get the feeling it will stick around for good.

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