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The only guide you’ll need to keep connected with your family during Raya

Yes, I know. Raya is going to be different this year, but for the greater good. In the meantime, interstate travel isn’t allowed. Also, even though you’re ‘allowed’ to have 20 people over on the first day of Eid, you should prioritise the health of senior citizens who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus infection.

In my own case, I currently (luckily) live with family members already. But instead of going back to Penang like we normally would, we’re planning an extended family video chat session.

The plan, however, is easier said than done. Many elder family members won’t be too familiar with online apps and services, so asking them to download an app for a video session might not be too ideal—which is why I’ve decided to compile some video conferencing apps and tell you more about them so you can make the right decision for your family.

I’ll also add in some extra tips to heighten your experiences. You can thank me later.

Video chat platforms

Facebook Messenger Rooms

Advantages

  • Almost everyone has a Facebook nowadays, even your grandma—if she’s hip.
  • Even if a family member doesn’t have their own Facebook account, they can still join the group chat. They just need you to send them the Messenger Rooms link. They’ll be able to click on the link through a desktop, or their phones.
  • Up to 50 people can join a room.
  • There’s no time limit.
  • You can even post the Messenger Rooms link on your Facebook News Feed so that anyone you’re friends with on Facebook could possibly join the room and chat with you, if you’re into that.
  • If you’re not, you can remove people from the call and lock a room if you don’t want anyone else to enter.
  • If you use your phone to access the group, you can use AR effects, backgrounds and even play games with your fellow family and friends.

Disadvantages

  • Even though Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook has tried to “learn the lessons” from issues with other video conference tools, Facebook has had problems with security and privacy. 
  • The AR features mentioned are only available for those who access the room with their phones. So if you access the room with your laptop, you’ll be missing out on the games you can play.

Take note that if the host leaves the room, they can opt to “leave the chatroom”, or “end” it. But if they press “leave the chatroom” people who are still in the room can hang out, but if the host accidentally presses “end”, the room won’t exist anymore.

You can click here to learn how to access the feature.

Google Meet

Advantages

  • Like a Facebook account, almost everyone has their own Gmail. But if they aren’t, they can sign up for free.
  • Google won’t enforce a time limit until 30th September.
  • Google emphasises how “privacy and security are paramount” for Meet. They designed Google Meet to operate on a “secure foundation”, providing data security, and keeping users’ information private. You can read more about how they keep Google Meet safe here.
  • They don’t require plugins to use Meet on the web. It works entirely in Chrome and other modern browsers.
  • You can have up to 100 guests in a Meet. Imagine the chaos (a classic Hari Raya trope).
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Disadvantages

  • Participants have to sign up for a Gmail account, so you might need some prep time to get your family and friends to sign up if they haven’t.
  • You’d also have to download the Google Meet app if you’d rather use your mobile phone. (iOSAndroid)

Click here to learn how to start a Google Meet video.

WhatsApp Group Calls

Advantages

  • Almost everyone in Malaysia has WhatsApp, and even your friends and family who don’t have the app can download it for free.
  • You can have group voice and video calls with up to eight people on WhatsApp, as opposed to the four people limit before.
  • It’s by far the most hassle-free option so far.
  • There’s no time limit.

Disadvantages

  • It only lets you talk to seven people at once.
  • You can only access the video chat feature with your phone, not even through WhatsApp Web on your desktop.

Click here to learn how to access the feature on your iPhone, and click here if you’re using Android.

FaceTime

Advantages

  • If everyone you want to contact has the supported iOS or iPadOS devices, you won’t need to download anything. You can just start FaceTime-ing.
  • On an iPhone X or later, or an iPad with Face ID, you can create a Memoji to match your personality and mood, then use the Memoji during a FaceTime video call.
  • With iOS 12.1.4 and later, and iPadOS, you can take Live Photos during a FaceTime video call by tapping the shutter button to take a photo.
  • You can talk to up to 32 participants in one video call.
  • You can even FaceTime using your MacBook if it’s connected to your device.
  • There’s no time limit.

Disadvantages

  • Not everyone has an iPhone or an iPad.

Discord

Advantages

  • Due to the pandemic, Discord is raising the server video chat limit from 10 people at a time to 25 people.
  • You can prepare a server for especially for your “Raya” session a couple days before, and get your participants to join early so you can access the video chat feature on the day itself without hassle.
  • You can press the ‘Pop Out View’ button to be able to move the chat window anywhere on your screen.
  • They’re best to share your screen with, so you can play games like Jackbox with people far away. (I’ll talk more about games you can play below)

Disadvantages

  • The layout of Discord would probably intimidate people who aren’t familiar with it, unless if they’re already killing it at DOTA2 and are currently using Discord to talk to their gaming friends.
  • You’ll need a hell of a lot of explaining to people who aren’t familiar with Discord.
  • Even though it’s accessible for phones as well, it’s best on your desktop.

You can read more on how to access the video chat feature on Discord here.

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Zoom

Advantages

  • You can sign up for free and you don’t necessarily have to download the app if you access Zoom through your desktop.
  • It’s pretty hassle free, as anyone with the link to a Zoom Room can access the room.
  • 100 people can join the room at the same time.

Disadvantages

Click here to learn how to access Zoom. If you do need to access Zoom, I suggest you join the room without downloading the app. You can find the option in small print once you click a link on your desktop, but you won’t be able to access features like changing camera views.

Skype

Advantages

  • All you need to do is to have Skype downloaded on your phone or your desktop.
  • There’s no time limit.
  • You can also access virtual backgrounds like Zoom, but only if you use the app on your desktop.
  • You can call up to 50 participants.
  • You can prepare by adding all of the participants in a group so you can call the whole group at once with one button.

Disadvantages

  • You’d have to add your participants in first before being able to call them.
  • Getting everyone to download an app might still be difficult.

You can click here to download Skype.

How to spice up your video calls

I can foresee that you’ll run out of things to talk about in a short period of time, so to kill the awkwardness, why not add these into the call to one-up everyone else’s Hari Raya?

Snap Camera

Snap Camera brings Snapchat Lenses to video chats for both PC and Mac, with many fun lenses you might be familiar with if you have Snapchat. You can download the application for you to use on Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, Twitch, Discord and other video chat platforms you can use on your desktop.

Click here to download the feature.

Netflix Party

You’ll need to make sure everyone has access to a Netflix account, but you can have watch parties with your friends and family with Netflix Party. The Google Chrome extension lets you sync your Netflix movie or show with other people who have the same link.

The extension also lets you chat in a text chat room while it streams, but you can also access this while being on a video chat platform of your choice so it feels like they’re in the same room as you.

Click here for Netflix Party.

Jackbox Games

Jackbox Games offer ‘party packs’ that you can purchase through Steam for PC, Mac or Linux. They’re party games that are played using your phone, tablet, laptop, or other web-enabled device as a controller. The main action of the game happens on wherever you’ve launched the game.

For example, if you’re planning to play Jackbox with your friends and family on video chat, downloaded the games through your desktop. Then, use the option of screen sharing on your video chat platform to share your desktop screen as you start the game. Each player will need to go to Jackbox.TV on their own phone or device, enter a four-letter room code and press play.

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These games aren’t difficult at all and are fun for the whole family, like typing in their funniest response to the prompt in QuipLash, trivia in You Don’t Know Jack, and even drawing games like Drawful. The price for a party pack starts at RM47, you can click here to get the original Jackbox Party Pack for that price, but there are newer ones that cost a little more. Take note that only one of you needs to buy the pack.

Other creative games and challenges

You could host a series of Raya-themed games while keeping connecting with your family and friends. Here are a few ideas, but please do write in the comments if you have any other ideas:

  • Raya recipe challenge: Everyone makes the same Raya dish based on a family recipe (or you can search online). You can cook together, learn tips, and laugh at your own mistakes all through video call. Grandparents can also share stories about where the recipe came from or memories about eating the meal during special times.
  • Karaoke or dance party: Play your favourite Raya songs and share your screen with everyone as you literally party. Have a karaoke contest as well.
  • Online games: You can visit sites like playingcards.io to create rooms for board and card games for you and your family and friends.
  • Enjoy a meal together: Just plop your desktop or phone on your table and have your Raya meal with the rest of your family, just like every other Raya! ‘Share’ what you’ve made, what you’re eating and drinking and just treat it like they’re in the house with you.

Video call etiquette

Like other Hari Raya ‘visits’, you should adhere to some etiquette during video calls. Here are a few to take note of:

  • Do be courteous to other participants by showing up on time to the video call, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re not sure about how to access the features, but do it earlier than the set time and day.
  • Don’t carry out side conversations for times when someone is telling a story.
  • Do dress appropriately, and this even includes pants. This is just in case you’d need to stand up and get something somewhere. You might forget you aren’t wearing anything below the waist. So spare your family the view.
  • Face towards good lighting, like a window during the day. People who are connecting with you can see you better.
  • Avoid low angles, so make sure your computer’s at least a little bit elevated so that you don’t have the double-chin effect or have your family looking up your nostrils.

I hope this guide helped you get ready for Raya celebrations. It’s going to be different, but I hope you can take advantage of technology to make this year as ‘riuh’ as last year.

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