British Columbia

Zoomed out? Here are some other ways to stay connected this Christmas

From sharing playlists to playing games, a B.C. tech expert offers up creative ways to keep in touch without touching.

Playlists, games, watch parties and other suggestions from a B.C. tech expert

Dreading another video chat? There are other, more creative ways to connect with loved ones this holiday season, a B.C. tech expert says. (Shutterstock / amenic181)

Video chats have been the go-to this year for those looking to connect with loved ones outside their household, but a B.C. tech expert says there are other, less exhausting ways to stay in touch without touching during the holidays. 

Research has shown that constant video chat meetings are draining users more than in-person conversations. If your work life is already filled with virtual appointments, the idea of a Christmas Zoom conversation may not be so appealing.

"There is an imperceptible lag on technology that causes us to work harder," said Jaigris Hodson, a digital technologies researcher at Royal Roads University. 

"Zoom fatigue is real," she said during an interview on CBC's On The Island.

Hodson said her research has shown successful people use different tools to connect with different types of people.

Here are her suggestions for alternatives to video get-togethers during a COVID-19 Christmas. 

Make a playlist

One way to involve friends and family who are apart from one another is to have them collaborate on a music playlist using an app like Spotify, she said. 

People can all add the holiday songs they enjoy and then everyone can listen simultaneously wherever they are.

Hodson said this could also be taken to the next level using YouTube. Using the video platform, people can record messages or carols and then upload to a playlist shared with each other. That way, people can see each other without mustering the energy required for video conversations.

Get gaming

Games are not just for kids. Hodson recommends bringing intergenerational family members together to play video games virtually.

"We always assume the older adults in our lives are not into technology, but studies show they are," Hodson said. 

She suggests Minecraft and Animal Crossing. They're are both online games popular with young people that are also accessible for many others, she said. 

Players can visit their friends' towns and have a virtual party in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Playing with loved ones in different households is one way to connect without using video chat technology. (Nintendo)

Make it a movie night

There are apps available now where people can log on and collectively watch a movie together from the comfort (and safety) of their own homes.

Many streaming platforms offer their own built-in options such as GroupWatch for Disney Plus, or Amazon Prime's Watch Party. Another popular option is Teleparty (formerly known as Netflix Party) which supports Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and HBO. 

You can stream a Christmas classic and enjoy it together without the pressure of "performing" yourself during a virtual chat, Hodson said. 

"The sky's the limit and really, creativity is the limit," she said.

To hear Jaigris Hodson speak about Zoom fatigue and alternative ways to connect on CBC's On The Island, tap the audio link below:

With files from On The Island, Thomas Daigle