News & Politics

No One in DC Can Actually Hang Out IRL. So Everyone Is Hanging Out Virtually.

The new normal: virtual birthday parties, karaoke sessions, game nights, and...goat yoga?

Photograph via iStock.
Coronavirus 2020

About Coronavirus 2020

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Tuesday evening, a group of about 20 tipsy people sang karaoke, caught up, and celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. And no, this was not a violation of the social distancing philosophy that’s quickly become standard practice, because most of these folks in the group were nowhere near each other. As is the norm these days, they were hanging out virtually.

While the Covid-19 crisis forces people to forgo plans and socially isolate indoors, folks are taking to virtual hangouts to keep themselves from going full-on Castaway Tom Hanks. People are looking to platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, and Netflix Party for virtual crafting sessions, virtual wine nights, virtual lunches, and even virtual goat yoga flows (more on that later).

“We just wanted to get back to normal,” says Raul Bonilla, 29, of Dumfries, who was one of the folks partaking in the St. Patrick’s Day virtual karaoke session. “We were just trying to lighten the mood.”

One of Bonilla’s friends hosts the weekly karaoke night at Spacycloud in Adams Morgan, and their friend group has made it a routine of going each week. Obviously, no one’s going to a bar for karaoke right now, so they decided to take the event online.

Bonilla’s friend sent out a Zoom link and shared his screen with everyone watching, where he used YouTube to project the karaoke versions of songs and the scrolling lyrics.

It seems the standard evolution of a karaoke night—even your shy friends begin screaming “Pour Some Sugar On Me” once they’ve had enough Bud Lights—still takes place even in the virtual realm. “Obviously because it was St Patrick’s Day, it was a virtual happy hour,” says Bonilla, “and obviously with the drinks, people became more receptive to singing [as the night went on].”

Overall, the event lasted about three-and-a-half hours, says Bonilla, with friends trickling in and out of the virtual karaoke lounge. At one point, a friend in Silver Spring was singing a duet across city lines with a friend in Columbia. (And, yes, there were some Covid-19-themed song selections, such as “Contagious” by the Isley Brother or “So Sick” by Ne-Yo.) The group plans to host the karaoke event again next week—after they hold a virtual Netflix watching session, that is.

Meanwhile, a 30-year-old woman living in Southwest named Kelsey (who asked to only use her first name) teamed up with her fiancé to host a virtual game night with three other couples. The group scheduled a Google Hangouts call and then used the program JackBox to play games together via their phones—while having cocktails, because, quarantine.

“It was nice to see someone besides the person we’re living with,” says Kelsey. “We were all joking at the end of the call, like, ‘When do we want to do this again?’ And I pointed out, ‘Well, it’s not like any of us have anything else going on.'”

Virtual hangouts can be especially helpful if you are stuck in the house and responsible for the sanity and entertainment of small, rambunctious creatures—like in the case of Nicole Kaeding, who is working at home with her 4 year-old and 6 year-old.

The 36-year-old Arlington woman has been organizing virtual playdates via Zoom or FaceTime with the parents of her children’s friends every day since they went on lockdown Friday. The kids will chat, play hide-and-seek, or—the most exciting reveal in a 6-year-old’s mind—show each other their bedrooms. Kaeding’s kids even attended a virtual fifth birthday this weekend, where each child made and displayed a card, then sang “Happy Birthday” as their friend blew out the candles.

The experience has been a welcome dose of nostalgia and fun in a very un-fun time, says Kaeding. “A friend of mine and I were joking as I called her to [reach] her daughter that it felt like when were were back in middle school,” she says, “and we would call each other’s houses before we had cell phones and ask to talk to our friends.”

But mama needs a playdate, too: “After the birthday party yesterday, all of the moms decided that we want to do one for ourselves with wine after the children go to bed,” says Kaeding.

And not to worry—even in trying and uncertain times, people are still finding ways to bond over the most sacred of human experiences. We’re talking, of course, about goat yoga. Just look at Arlington yoga teacher Beth Wolfe, 47, and Maureen Noftsinger, 48, of Walnut Creek Farm in Salem. When the duo’s line-up of goat yoga events were cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis, the friends decided to host their own personal session at home. Wolfe provided the virtual yoga flow, Noftsinger provided the goats, and then they put the whole thing on Facebook. (And yes, that is “The Lonely Goatherd” playing in the background.)

But some bad news: For those that are fond of doing the last-minute “I’m so sorry, something came up!!!!” ditch-and-text, it will probably be a lot harder to cancel plans these days, says Alex Jacquez, 29, of Southwest. The policy advisor recently attended a virtual happy hour with a group of about 50 other folks who he worked with on the Green New Deal. “It’s hard to make excuses when we know the vast majority of people are in the exact same spot as we are,” he says. “It’s not like you can run out or have plans elsewhere.”

Goats and chronic plan-cancellers aside, there are sadly some things that are still hard to celebrate not IRL. Just ask Bryce Webster-Jackson, 27, of Shaw. He and his fiancé got engaged last week, “right before the end of the world,” he says. They’ve been trying to find a good way to get all their friends together online to celebrate as they would pre-coronavirus, but that’s proven difficult. “We want to make a pound cake,” he says sadly, “but we don’t know how to share that virtually.”

Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.