I have come to the realization that, as exciting as I thought it sounded at first, social distancing sucks. And that's coming from me, the person who breathes a sigh of relief whenever my friends cancel plans.
But to keep from getting too lonely during this time of isolation, there's one thing we can turn to: FaceTime.
Particularly, Group FaceTime. Using your iPhone, iPad (running iOS 12.1 or later), or Mac (with macOS Mojave 10.14.3 and up) you can video chat with up to 31 other people simultaneously.
I don't even think I have that many friends. But for those who do, you can rest easy knowing you won't have to choose between your best friend or sorority sister for that last video chat slot.
Here's how to set up a Group FaceTime call, so you don't forget what it's like to socialize. And, to help make sure your loved ones don't forget what you look like.
Start a group call right from the FaceTime app
Can't remember the last time I opened the FaceTime app until ... now.
Type in up to 32 contacts, if you have that many people you want to FaceTime with.
I can't say I use the actual FaceTime app to ever start any calls, but that is an option.
Tap on the icon and then the little plus sign icon in the right hand corner to add the contacts you'd like to invite to your group. If you're not camera-ready, you can also opt for audio instead.
Use the iMessage group chat
Yes, we changed our group chat name to coronavirus hotline.
While my friends and I always have a group chat going, we've been way more talkative throughout the last few weeks.
To save time (because we all don't have enough of it right now), you can start a Group FaceTime call in the iMessage window. Tap on the clustered contacts at the top and the FaceTime icon will appear beneath it.
Navigating Group FaceTime
Whenever someone starts talking, their tile gets bigger.
If they don't pick up, just uh, try calling over and over again.
Group FaceTime calls look similar to standard one-on-one FaceTime sessions. At the bottom, you have a menu to add effects, mute or end the call, and flip the camera around.
If you pull the menu up, you'll see a few more features, like the ability to turn the camera off or add additional people to the chat.
If someone doesn't answer the first time around, you can also try to call them again from the menu. And then, maybe try again after that. I mean, what else could they be doing right now? Actually focusing on their work? Weird.
Whenever someone is speaking in a Group FaceTime chat that includes more than three people at time, their tile becomes bigger and moves to the front. That way, it makes it easier to see who it is you're supposed to be paying attention to.
And, if you literally have so many people at one time that the tiles can't fit on the display, you'll have to swipe through to find them. I truly wonder what that is like.
We're all stressed, so have some fun with it
Let's just say my friends weren't ready for this impromptu Group FaceTime call.
And I wasn't either.
Look, we're not going to look our best at all times during this quarantine. I'm personally thrilled that I haven't put makeup on in over a week.
So, if you'd feel more comfortable with your Memoji stepping in for you, then you can easily make that happen.
It also makes for a far more entertaining experience. To liven things up a bit, you can also add some cool stickers or drawings to your own FaceTime window. As you can see, the most minor of details and features excite me at this point.
I also can't help but think about how underrated the Group FaceTime feature was when it was first released two years ago with iOS 12. And now, during this rather hellish time, it feels almost revolutionary.
But I'll admit, I'm really looking forward to the day I can hang out with all my friends in person again. After all this, I am officially retiring my title as "the flaky friend."