The solution to awkward virtual friendships: The Pub Quiz 


“Ready for the Dreadnought Virtual Quiz, March 2020” by alljengi is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Elisha Verbes

A tradition now considered a gem in British culture, the Pub Quiz emerged in the 1970s as an attempt by pubs to attract customers on quieter weeknights. Usually consisting of several rounds of general knowledge, such as world flags, sports teams, and pop culture, the pub quiz/trivia night has revived itself as a popular virtual pastime in the UK during the pandemic.


When lockdowns halted most of the world, friend groups turned to Zoom or FaceTime to connect, hoping that the glitchy laptop cameras would sustain friendships. But as we all know too well, Zoom can be awkward and far from the authentic experience of socializing in person. 


Zoom meetings came with a whole new form of social etiquette that was a painstaking adjustment from the fluidity of in-person interactions. If a group of ten were meeting up in real life, chances are that they would naturally divide into sub-groups and people would drift from small groups to having different conversations with different groups throughout the evening. Zoom, while it does have the breakout room function which can work well for education and work meetings, fills a screen with boxes of choppy internet connection, background noise from family, and people who have to navigate the dance of not talking over each other (and then apologizing and going back and forth saying “Sorry! You speak first”, “No, you go!”).


 It’s also unfortunate that during a pandemic, there is not much going on in life other than the pandemic, and anything else that would be celebratory and prime conversation stock – weddings, birthdays, Fourth of July – are affected and likely cancelled altogether. Our conversations over the past few months have been polluted by COVID-19, so our virtual socializing has seemed dull and repetitive. 


This is how pub quizzes and trivia nights have become a highlight for many during lockdown. They give us a structure to Zoom conversations and easy access to the casual laughter that Zoom seems to get in the way of most of the time. While party games and quizzes are often criticized for being “organized fun,” they help ease the awkwardness of the virtual meet up. The trivia questions themselves are just a jumping off point to start conversations that are completely irrelevant and thus distract us from the downward spiral the world is falling into. Trivia also makes us feel like a kid again, getting that sweet dopamine hit when we get a question right. 


But asking mundane questions like “What year was the computer invented?” is not the limit to the virtual quiz. Friend and family groups have burned away the endless time in lockdown by creating personalized quiz questions about the people on the call (but this can create awkward situations if you get many questions wrong about your said-to-be-best-friend). Competition drives people to keep going, so the temptation to leave a Zoom meeting disappears when you’re in the middle of a quiz round. 


Even though the UK is easing out of lockdown and the pubs are reopening to welcome back real quiz nights, this form of virtual meet-up can teach us that sometimes a bit of structured conversation and “organized fun” can pull us away from droning on about the same conversation topics that make us miss being kids.