Videoconferencing Platforms Being Used as Social Networks During COVID-19

Schools, churches and even groups of friends are taking to Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, BlueJeans and other videoconferencing apps to catch up on lost instruction time, hear the latest sermon or just hang out with family and friends.

Videoconferencing Platforms Being Used as Social Networks During COVID-19

Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, BlueJeans and other videoconferencing apps’ popularity is soaring as people are forced to work and take classes from home. But it’s not just companies, campuses and other places of employment and learning that are finding the platforms useful.

Created to help businesses, campuses, healthcare facilities and other types of organizations communicate quickly and effectively, videoconferencing solutions and apps help organizations save time and money by organizing large meetings with a few clicks.

Now, with large parts of the world shut down due to COVID-19, these same apps are becoming a useful tool for a variety of sectors, even social networking. Schools, churches and even groups of friends are taking to these videoconferencing platforms to catch up on lost instruction time, hear the latest sermon or just hang out with your family and friends.

I’m in Massachusetts, and the state is just shy of being in a complete lockdown. That means I haven’t seen my friends in a while, so last night we organized a call and had a few beers together, messed around with virtual backgrounds and took very opportunistic screen shots of silly faces.

Use for work and school was to be expected, because that’s essentially what these platforms were made for. But I never thought of Zoom as a social networking tool.

Since the novel coronavirus began closing schools and offices, Zoom’s usage had skyrocketed. On Sunday, nearly 600,000 people have downloaded the app, the New York Times reports.

Now, Zoom is being turned into a virtual gathering place or parties, blind dates and concerts, the Times reports:

Zoom has been preparing for this moment since the new coronavirus began spreading in China in January. Even then it was easy to see that Zoom’s primary customer base — videoconferencing desk workers — would become more reliant on its services while quarantined at home. So the company began closely monitoring its capacity and started hosting free training sessions. In China, Zoom dropped its 40-minute limit for free calls.

But no amount of planning could have anticipated the company’s emergence as a cultural phenomenon used to host parties, concertschurch services and art shows. Zoom could not have prepared to become a meme.

A Facebook group for young people trapped at home called Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens, founded less than a week ago, has already grown to more than 150,000 members.

College students across the country are going on Zoom blind dates. Parents of sixth-graders at Rosenbaum Yeshiva Of North Jersey organized a Zoom “recess” for their children. Ethel’s Club, a wellness platform, is conducting Zoom tarot card readings, breath work and cannabis hangouts.

One of the reasons for Zoom’s newfound popularity among non-enterprise users is the platform makes it easy to talk to multiple people at once. According to their website, up to 100 people can be on a video call at once.

On social platforms, users are posting about discovering previously unknown features on Zoom, like virtual backgrounds and filters like Touch Up My Appearance.

Finally, the rest of the world is catching on to how useful videoconferencing products other than FaceTime can be.


Zach Comeau is the web editor for CS sister publication My Tech Decisions. This article original ran in that publication.

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