On April 4, I turned 19! I had been looking forward to my birthday party for a while, and I was making elaborate plans as early as February. I wanted to try something new, like going roller skating or hosting a murder mystery party or just default to old faithful – a board game night with pizza.
When April came around, it was clear that none of these plans could happen under quarantine. But I, a diehard extrovert, wasn’t ready to give up that easily.
So I turned to a virtual party! This came with its highs and lows in the various stages of party planning, but for the most part it turned out well.
I organized my friends through a group text on my Android phone. I would recommend using a different app if you have Android, because through the texting app I couldn’t add or remove people after initially creating the group or insert something like a poll, which would have been really helpful.
Décor was easy for me, as I had saved my party decorations from last year. All I had to do was string them up in the background of where I was sitting for the call, and voila, instant festivity. If you don’t want to put the effort in, or you don’t have décor on hand, you can consider using a birthday-themed background on Zoom. One of my friends even made me a personalized background with my name on it as a present!
Entertainment for the party came through Jackbox- which is a computer-based group of party games. One person buys the game and streams the “game board” – which is the screen with Jackbox on a computer – and everyone else joins on their phone. Different mini-games have different limits for how many people can play.
The games are fairly easy to learn and are pretty fun. The issue we ran into was that I didn’t know how to screenshare with sound, so the game instructions were quiet. If you encounter this problem on Zoom, just click on the “Share” button, and the tab that pops up with all the possible programs to share on your device should also have a checkbox that says “share computer sound.” Make sure this box is checked, and you’re ready to go.
We also had a lot of fun messing around with Zoom backgrounds, which I highly recommend for group selfies. Just click on the up arrow next to the Camera icon and then click on “choose virtual background.” If the background is covering you up or only showing up in weird places, select a different background color.
My party wasn’t without issues though. I initially had the group in Google Hangouts, but switched to Zoom. On my Zoom call, I was given unlimited minutes for free. I thought this was the new way Zoom operated, but a recent Zoom with my family cut out every 40 minutes. I would recommend having some backup options for if your meeting cuts off, and also making sure you know how to quickly create a new meeting.
A legendary party problem for college students is blending friends from college and old friends from high school together. In real life, I haven’t had a super huge issue with this, but on a call, it can be a lot harder for people to get to know each other and establish some rapport.
Most of my college friends were a little quieter than my high school friends, and I think that there would have been a little more interaction if I had two separate calls or an ice-breaker game. When you are planning your party, consider how your new and old friends might interact, and then decide how to proceed accordingly.
Overall, I had a really lovely time being able to talk to and hang out with my friends as a group virtually! As my sister, Elsa Maree Askelson, put it “it’s fun to have a big gathering of people when you can’t see them in person.”
If your birthday falls during quarantine, don’t let it stop you from having fun! Virtual partying offers an excellent opportunity for your friends to get together. In my case, I even had two friends who live a fair bit away and who would not have been able to come to a normal party in attendance. Overall, having a virtual party was an excellent way to get together with friends and celebrate during this difficult time.