An illustration of a Zoom party, people dancing, kissing and cutting their hair in the split screens
Illustration: Sandra Bayer
zoom

I Crashed a Load of Private Zoom Parties and It Made Me Feel Alive

I was missing my links to the outside world, so I turned to some Zoom meeting links I found on Facebook.
19 May 2020, 10:45pm

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.

It was another Saturday evening of me sitting at home, alone. The fridge was full, the plants watered, the routine hi-mum-how-are-you-call taken care of. After months of self-isolation and social distancing in Berlin, all I wanted was a proper night out. But instead of breaking the law to rave in the middle of the woods, I decided to check out the closest legal alternative: Zoom parties.

My goal for the night was to try to get into Club Q (short for Quarantine), the the most-hyped queer club on the internet. Hundreds of people roll up to its virtual doors every night between 3AM and 6AM UK time. A bouncer (the admin of the Zoom meeting) decides who's in and who's out, as Zoom allows a maximum of 1,000 users per call. The virtual dance party was launched by four entrepreneurial Canadians on the 16th of March and quickly gained popularity, with pop stars like Charli XCX and Kim Petras playing sets.

Before heading to the club I decided to pre-drink at a few random Zoom events found on Facebook and Instagram with my best friend Mo*. We're basically family, so we made a small quarantine exception and met at my place. Our first party of the night was thrown by the club Klubhaus St. Pauli in Hamburg. The DJ was playing school dance bangers and wearing a captain's hat. "You’re all so beautiful!" he yelled into the microphone – "all" being the 11 people listening. The other club kids were flaunting innovative designs such as high-visibility vests and animal costumes.

My first impression was that Zoom parties mainly consist of sitting down. At one point, the DJ held up a sign saying "Schnapps break" and we obediently downed our vodkas. When Mo and I came up on the big screen, we cheered and pretended we were having a great time, until the picture switched to someone else. We ended up doing what everyone does at a boring party online: drinking, and watching ourselves drink in a tiny screen. Meanwhile, I was preoccupied with the question of where to look – into the camera, to give people at the party the impression I was making eye contact with them? Or at the little screens where you can see who's attending?

For the most part, I caught myself looking out the window. Usually when I’m in a club, I wonder what other people are thinking about me and the way I dance. But on Zoom, you basically just stare at yourself the whole time. I was putting on a performance, not really for the other people at the party, but for myself. It felt kind of liberating to dress up, talk about nothing and get drunk.

At around 11PM we crashed a Zoom haircut party I'd found on Facebook, mainly because my hair was in dire need of a snip. We were met by 14 American women talking over each other and holding scissors up to their bangs. They clearly knew each other very well, so we were suddenly immersed in intimate English conversations my drunk German brain had trouble following. "I am one year poo free," said someone – a fairly concerning statement if you don’t know that poo is short for shampoo.

Surprisingly, we were having a great time, maybe because we missed the feeling of being spontaneous after weeks of monotony. Then the ladies noticed we were there and called out my username. "Hi guys, how did you find this chat?" the admin asked. "On Facebook," I said. She replied that she thought it was a private event. They laughed, we apologised. But they let us – their new European friends – stay for a while.

To switch things up we decided to check if Chatroulette was still a thing. And not much has changed – eight of our ten conversation partners were penises. The night became blurry, the different live streams we joined started to blend together. After being kicked out of a Zoom birthday party thrown for a Langston from South Carolina, I made my last conscious decision of the evening and put on a black shirt and a metal chain, to take a shot at getting into Club Q.

We waited in the queue for a short while, then we were in. It was just as you’d imagine – hundreds of beautiful people were dancing inside the tiny split screens. Some had fixed some LED lights or a disco ball as their background.

I have no idea how long we danced on our chairs, sitting, standing, around and on top of each other. For a brief moment, my brain finally switched off. People were making out in their tiny boxes and everything was good in the world. All of a sudden, a chair collapsed under poor Mo. As she tried to grab onto the window sill, she brought a pot of flowers down with her, which broke into a hundred pieces, flinging soil everywhere and knocking our drinks over. The carpet was covered in hair, spilt drinks and shards of glass. I couldn’t have cared less.

A massive Zoom party seems like a weird place to look for mindless fun, but it works. In the following weeks, whenever I felt lonely and slightly crazy, or was missing spontaneity in my life, I’d put on a nice shirt and join a Zoom party. Just seeing people feeling the same way made me feel so much better. Plus, online parties have one huge advantage – once you feel like you’re done, you only need to close your laptop and walk the ten steps to your bed. No Uber drama, no drunk drivers. The ultimate Irish goodbye.

*Name changed.

This article originally appeared on VICE DE.