With the pandemic in full force, visiting with older relatives and mixing things up with infants and children around just isn’t the best idea. While some families may choose to ignore the pandemic, others are choosing to use different types of apps and technological devices to include at-risk family members in their Thanksgiving celebrations. If you want some helpful hints and tips for doing the same, check out the following.
Smartphones and FaceTime
If you want to keep visits short and sweet, you can FaceTime with members of the family that can’t be at your Thanksgiving gathering. Of course, those not present must have a smartphone with this capability/app, or you will not be able to see and speak to them at the same time. If Grams and Gramps don’t have a smartphone, now is a good time to give them an early Christmas present so that they can see and talk to everyone at Thanksgiving dinner.Read More »
Laptops or Tablets With an App
Laptops or tablets have multiple options for video calls. You could literally put these devices at the dinner table at spots where your missing holiday guests would normally sit. Then they can see everyone, have a conversation, eat their dinners safely from home, and still feel like they are together with you.
The apps you could try include:
- Google Meet
- Google Hangout
- Cisco Webex
The three most commonly used apps here are Skype, which has been around a very long time, Google Hangouts, which is transferring slowly over to the new Google Meet, and Zoom. Zoom is fast becoming the most popular of all, since it is very easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of time to set up and establish oneself as the “host” of the meeting.
In terms of being a “host” on Zoom, it seems apropos for a Thanksgiving meal. You would invite by email all family members that will not be in attendance, and then each one is sent a video conference link to appear. As they login, you accept them “into the room” and then they are visually and audibly present. If anyone wants to mute themselves from the gathering or you want to mute certain people because a fight breaks out, you are the host and you can do that.
Other apps work in a similar fashion, but there’s a learning curve to them. Additionally, you can only use the Google group connection apps if you have a Google account and a Google email account. Likewise, your guests can only respond and be present if they also have a Google account, although steps are being taken to meld Google’s apps seamlessly with other platforms. Most people who don’t have a Google account typically don’t want to sign up for one for the purpose of doing a video call. Hence, Zoom works much better because it is a stand-alone app.
Skype comes standard with MS Office, but again not everyone has MS Office or wants to incur the expense. Skype can also work in a stand-alone way, but you may need to register for a free account and video is not included for free; that’s extra. The obvious choice, and the only free to video and audio call anyone for up to 100 people/participants for at least forty minutes is Zoom.
Echo Show by Amazon
This product debuted last Christmas and just in time for the virtual movement of the 2020 pandemic. Talk about good timing, Amazon! Anyway, it is a video screen and app on which you can make video calls and connect to family and friends who also have an Echo Show screen in their homes.
What makes it even more realistic is that the screen tracks people’s movements, thus allowing you to converse with the caller no matter where you go in the room where the Echo Show is perched. Family not in attendance at your Thanksgiving holiday can feel as though they are right there with you regardless of how much you are moving around or stationary.
The downside is the same as the upside. If you want to leave the room to go to the bathroom or something, the Echo Show will scan the room and follow you visually as you leave. There’s a privacy factor about it that makes other people uncomfortable. However, if you only use this device while watching the Thanksgiving Day football game or at the dinner table, it’s a little less awkward. There’s also the problem with all parties needing an Echo Show for this to work, and that can get expensive.
After You Have Picked Your Device, Platform, and App
Finally, once you narrow this all down to how people can be with you without being physically present, you can set up your holiday table. Put devices on certain table spots and seats. Where the food and plates would go for these people, put the devices propped up and ready to talk.
At the assigned time, accept everyone virtually into the dining room or kitchen where you will be eating. After grace is said and you conduct any other family holiday rituals, people can eat wherever they are and still visit as they eat. They can sign out or you can sign off whenever you feel as though the visiting is enough.
Whatever you choose for the device, platform, app, and/or method, you can reuse the same at Christmastime.