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Everything You Need to Know to Use Houseparty for You Next Virtual Group Hang

Courtesy of Houseparty

Once upon a time (like three weeks ago), we had social lives that existed outside the confines of our smartphones. We dined somewhere other than our living room couches, sipped $15 tequila sodas at crowded neighborhood bars, and could cancel plans for the thrill of it rather than a government mandate requiring it. 

But just because we're responsible humans and practicing good social distancing (drinking at home) doesn't mean we can't socialize. We just can't do it IRL. Thankfully, there are all sorts of video call apps to help us bridge the gap while we all remain in relative isolation. And while each platform has its own unique features, Houseparty has emerged as a favorite among the FaceTimes and Zooms of the digital space. 

The live video chatting app allows you to host several "parties" at once (with eight guests to each room), so you can juggle your busy virtual happy hour schedule. Check in with your coworkers for a quick glass of wine before toggling over to your college friends for shots. 

Here's everything you need to know to use and make the most of Houseparty:

 

Ready to start a group call?

Once you've downloaded the app and filled in the signup details, you can start partying. To begin a Houseparty group call, just click the plus icon located in the top right corner and search your contacts. Or if you're looking to join a preexisting party, you can swipe up on the screen and jump in your active group chats your friends have already started. 

How many people can you chat with at once? 

Each room allows up to eight people per call, but one of the cool perks of Houseparty is the ability to switch between groups. Hop on with your family for a virtual game night, jump over to your besties happy hour, and then back again. 

Can you lock a Houseparty room so others can't join?

Yep! Just hit the padlock at the bottom of the screen or update your settings to automatically lock your chats. Though people can still request to join, you'll have the ability to ignore those you don't want in.

How do you alert someone that you're "in the house?" 

Unless you adjust your privacy settings, the app will actually alert your friends when you available to Houseparty, aka are "in the house." But if you want to give them an added nudge, you can click the wave icon and send a notification their way.

Courtesy of Houseparty

You can still "sneak into the house," though

Don't want to send alert your friends that you're online? Simply hold down on your app or notification and opt for the "sneak into the house" option that appears.

Or, you can go ahead and update your settings to ghost either all your contacts or specific ones, so they'll no longer receive updates when you're in the house. Just hit the face icon in the top lefthand corner of your main screen and select "manage notifications." Turn off "send out my notifications" to ghost everyone or ghost specific people. 

Don't want notifications from your friends? 

You can also mute notifications to avoid an alert every time a friend hops on the app. In the same notification center you can turn off "get my friends' notifications" and those incessant "in the house" alerts will stop. 

What is "passing a note" mean? 

Houseparty has a sneaky little feature that allows you to send private messages to individual friends. Just tap on their profile icon or name, and shoot over whatever gossip you've got to discuss away from everyone else.

How to access Houseparty's library of games 

The app's collection of games makes virtual game night a reality while social distancing. When you're on a call, simply hit the dice icon and you'll have options to choose from, including Heads up!, trivia, quick draw, or chips and guac. 

What's a facemail? 

Facemail is like a voicemail... just with your face in it. The app allows you to record a video message if your friends aren't around to chat IRL. Hit the dots in the bottom lefthand corner of your screen and select record Facemail, then do your thing. 

Is Houseparty safe?  

Recent reports suggested a Houseparty hack allowed culprits to access users' Spotify and Netflix accounts. Houseparty strongly denied that any such breach occurred and the company offered a $1 million reward to anyone that could prove its theory that the news was part of a "paid commercial smear to harm Houseparty." 

But that's not to say you shouldn't be aware of some privacy issues. According to TechCrunch, the company is able to collect your data while using the platform. However, the company maintains that it is a "secure" service.

"There have been no data breaches and no exposure of customer data or third-party accounts," Houseparty said in an official statement on its site. "Immediately upon hearing these false reports, we assembled an internal team who worked alongside external experts to investigate. We determined these claims were not true." 

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Megan Schaltegger is a staff writer at Thrillist.