WhatsApp on Thursday announced the introduction of voice and video calls on its desktop apps for Mac and PC, expanding the ways in which you can create the illusion of meaningful human interaction in this moment of crushing isolation.
“With so many people still apart from their loved ones, and adjusting to new ways of working, we want conversations on WhatsApp to feel as close to in-person as possible, regardless of where you are in the world or the technology you’re using,” WhatsApp owner Facebook announced in its press release, a reminder that simply talking to another human being face-to-face with reckless abandon could still kill you.
This is good news for those of us who are so profoundly exhausted by the past year that even holding a phone feels impossible: the new desktop WhatsApp call functionality “makes it easier to work with colleagues, see your family more clearly on a bigger canvas or free up your hands to move around a room while talking,” the company said. You know deep down that this is no different than using Google Meet or Zoom or FaceTime or any of the other many apps that do exactly the same thing, but that word “easier” is so appealing right now that you appreciate the effort to make this seem like something to be happy about if nothing else.
And if you’re worried about WhatsApp (and, by extension, Facebook) listening to you sob uncontrollably while you explain to your mum on a video chat that, yes, you have been calling Walgreens every 15 minutes to find out if they have any leftover vaccines that they need to inject into someone’s arm before they expire and get thrown in the garbage right next to the rest of your life, but no, they still don’t have any available, fear not! “Voice and video calls on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted, so WhatsApp can’t hear or see them, whether you call from your phone or your computer,” the press release reads.
Voice and video calls on WhatsApp’s desktop apps, available for download here, are currently limited to one-on-one conversations, but the company promises it plans to expand the feature to group chats sometime in the future, a period of time that either remains nice to think about or has become so tenuous and vague that’s it’s morphed into a meaningless concept, depending on where you’re at in your personal cycle between hope and misery. And we all know that the one thing we need right now is more group chats.