Pandemic Optimism: How Social Media Helped Us Stay Sane

Last week I wrote about the dangers of social media and what a terrible place the internet can be.  This week, I’d like to take a more positive look at the ways in which social media have helped us get through the current coronavirus pandemic. 

In March 2020 our lives changed irrevocably.  Countries started to shut down, lockdowns were implemented, and people twiddled their thumbs and wondered what to do with all of the free time they suddenly had.  For some, the pandemic brought shock and dismay, for others it brought mild concern or confusion.  But for everyone, it led to a need for connection in a time of isolation and, miraculously, people used social media as a tool to connect with the world.

Taste the Rainbow

One of the early trends of the pandemic was the sudden appearance of rainbows in windows across the world.  The trend started in Italy within days of the lockdown starting.  Schoolchildren created colourful pictures with the message of hope andrà tutto bene (everything will be all right).  Pictures were posted online and before we knew it the rainbow had become the symbol of the pandemic.  Windows across the globe became adorned with colourful images and parents took the opportunity to take their children on walks to find as many rainbows as possible.  Some communities started to change up the pictures on a weekly basis to give local children something new to spot during their government mandated exercise time.  As the year progressed, rainbows came to symbolise support for healthcare workers and even became a fashion trend

Painted concrete slab, Ipswich, UK

Over time, people started coming up with more and more creative ways of keeping themselves, and their kids, entertained.  Although the rainbow trails were a global phenomenon, local efforts started popping up and diversifying.  In some places, people put teddy bears in their windows for children to find.  In others, elaborate scarecrows were constructed and placed outside of houses. 

Stay Home Scarecrows became a phenomenon across the UK which started in Widdrington Station in the North East of England and spread across the country.  This trend acted as a “thank you” to key workers who were the lifeblood of the communities while everyone else stayed at home in safety. 

I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing…

One of the earliest outbursts of creativity characteristic of the first lockdown was music.  From celebrity Zoom concerts to parody song lyrics, music took the world by storm and brightened up everybody’s day.  The Italians, forced into a rapid and extremely restrictive lockdown, again took the helm, and began an uplifting trend of singing to each other from their balconies.  Like the rainbows, this trend quickly spread and before you knew it there were arias and ABBA songs being exchanged in neighbourhoods everywhere.

Once people got bored enough, the creative juices really started to flow.  Parody songs became a huge hit, with Coronavirus Rhapsody appearing in several iterations and We Didn’t Start the Fire 2020 taking centre stage.  Some YouTubers decided to add in costumes and there were a rash of Disney parody songs, complete with over the top acting and outfits thrown together with whatever people could find in their homes.  For the kid inside all of us, this was certainly a way of keeping our spirits high.

If nothing else, this outpouring of creativity certainly kept YouTube in business and, in some cases, helped families to come together and collaborate on some great corona-content!

Unleash the Artist Within

As if dressing up as a Disney character weren’t enough, some people took it to a whole new level.  As I discussed in my blog post about museums’ responses to the pandemic, a trend that swept across social media in 2020 was to replicate famous artworks from the comfort of your lockdown home and post the pictures on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.  For those lacking in musical talent, but for whom art is a passion, this helped them to stave off the boredom and maintain their sanity while allowing their creativity to flourish. 

Although the trend seems to have died down now, searching on Instagram for #mettwinning#betweenartandquarantine, and #gettymuseumchallenge will bring up all of the pictures and will keep you entertained during the current lockdown.  Which is your favourite and who did the best job?  Maybe there should be an award…

Audience Participation

Despite the rash of songs, art, and rainbows, pandemic trends haven’t all been frivolous.  Communities have been coming together across the globe to support each other, our key workers, and the most vulnerable members of our society.  Almost every country has stories of neighbours bringing food and medicine to the elderly who are shielding at home, or providing urgent supplies to those who are self-isolating.  Those with sewing skills brought out their machines and turned their hand to making masks that could be sold locally at a time when PPE was in short supply.  In the UK, millions of people took to their doorsteps every Thursday night to clap for the healthcare workers in the NHS in support of their tireless efforts.  The Royal Canadian Mint even issued a wearable medal to thank our healthcare workers that can be given as a gift.

Captain Sir Tom Moore

Perhaps one of the most internationally famous examples of community spirit was Captain Sir Tom Moore.  Captain Tom, as he became known as, was a British pensioner who set out to walk 100 lengths of his garden before his 100th birthday to raise money for an NHS charity.  His story went viral and by the end of his fundraising effort he had surpassed his original goal of £1,000 ($1,730) and had raised a staggering £32.79 million ($57 million) for the UK’s doctors and nurses.  For his efforts he received a knighthood and the love of the nation.  Unfortunately, in February 2021, Captain Sir Tom Moore succumbed to COVID-19 and died a national hero.  His perseverance and kindness have been immortalised in literature and his family have set up a foundation in his name. His story also inspired others around the world to raise funds in their own unique ways, mostly in support of the ongoing efforts of healthcare workers, who have been working so hard to keep us all safe.

How is all of this related to social media, you may ask.  Well, without social media, many of these community efforts would not have been possible.  Fundraising efforts, though sometimes featured on the news, often went viral on social media.  Facebook was used extensively by mask makers to advertise their products in their local areas.  Online community groups also helped to coordinate efforts to assist the elderly and vulnerable.  Although these efforts may not have kept us sane through entertainment, giving people a sense of purpose when they would otherwise be trapped in a situation where they felt powerless could only have good effects on their mental health.

The End is Nigh…

As we enter the second quarter of 2021 and the vaccine is slowly, but surely, making its way through our communities, we have to stand back and wonder: what next?  We have been living with this pandemic for over a year and, for many of us, this has become the “new normal”.  Despite our initial optimism and efforts to keep our spirits high, we are now entering our umpteenth lockdown and covid fatigue has well and truly set in.  What possible other trends could we see in the coming months and would you be likely to participate in them?  Let me know in the comments!

Facebook: Check out my latest blog on fun pandemic trends here: https://bit.ly/31UcP5e

Twitter: Pandemic optimism, a user’s guide: Take a look at my latest post here: https://bit.ly/31UcP5e

References

Addley, E. (2020, May 28). Clap for our carers: The very unbritish ritual that united the nation. Retrieved April 07, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/may/28/clap-for-our-carers-the-very-unbritish-ritual-that-united-the-nation

Ahlgrim, C. (2020, May 29). Artists are playing live concerts from their homes amid the coronavirus outbreak – here’s how to watch the best ones. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://www.insider.com/live-private-concerts-coronavirus-watch-online-music-streaming-2020-3

BBC. (2020, April 11). Coronavirus: Rainbow TRAIL success Surprises Ipswich mum. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-suffolk-52214965

The Captain Tom foundation. (2021). Retrieved April 07, 2021, from https://captaintom.org/

Cartner-Morley, J. (2020, November 12). Rainbow bright! how the symbol of optimism and Joy spread across our CLOTHES, homes and lives in 2020. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2020/nov/12/rainbow-bright-how-the-symbol-of-optimism-and-joy-spread-across-our-clothes-homes-and-lives-in-2020

Royal Canadian Mint. (2021). 2020 recognition medal & Magnet. Retrieved April 07, 2021, from https://www.mint.ca/store/coins/2020-recognition-medal–magnet-prod3670019

Waite-Taylor, E. (2021, February 03). Celebrate the life of Captain Tom Moore with these books. Retrieved April 07, 2021, from https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/books/captain-sir-tom-moore-100-steps-book-b1796847.html

Yancey-Bragg, N. (2021, February 02). Capt. Tom Moore, ‘HERO’ UK veteran who raised millions by walking in his GARDEN, dies at 100. Retrieved April 07, 2021, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2021/02/02/captain-sir-tom-moore-dies-100-uk-walked-raise-millions/4354527001/

You know the original, but these coronavirus song parodies are catchy too. (2020, April 02). Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2020-04-01/coronavirus-song-parodies-go-viral

12 thoughts on “Pandemic Optimism: How Social Media Helped Us Stay Sane

  1. Hi Laura,
    That is a lot of good and artsy happening in what seemed like a bad and bland year! Thanks for finding all those examples to share.
    The video of the Disney quarantine was entertaining! A lot of work goes into writing the lyrics, researching the character and then acting it out!
    These days, I am less about creativity than I am about finding good tips and solid information on the vaccine to share with friends on my Facebook page. Maybe once most of us are vaccinated I’ll be more inclined to think artistically!
    That was a lovely post that took a lot of effort on your part. Greatly appreciated.
    All the best,
    Debra

    • Hi Debra,
      Thanks for commenting. I know what you mean about the creative drive, I feel like I’ve lost mine as well. It’s interesting that most of the examples I found of people using social media as a creative outlet took place in the first few months of the pandemic. I think most people have reached the point of covid fatigue now and we’ve all lost enthusiasm for keeping ourselves and others entertained. The constant consecutive disasters and bad news of 2020 took a toll on us and 2021 hasn’t been much better. It would be interesting to look at the psychology of the situation and see what sort of trauma we will all be living with once this is all over.
      Take care,
      Laura

  2. Hi Laura,

    You’ve written a wonderful blog this week, and it’s nice to see the positivity as well! I particularly enjoyed reading about the Italians singing from their balconies (as I had forgotten that). Although it was last year, I created a short video (and shared it on social media), while I was still living in Banff, AB. https://bit.ly/2Rtbfpj

    • Hi,
      Thanks, I thought after last week’s depressing post I should take it in a different direction this time. Thanks for the link to the video, I’ll take a look. Yes, a lot of stuff happened last year and it’s hard to remember everything that went on. It was nice doing the research for this post and looking back on some of the positive things that came out of 2020, as they were few and far between.
      Take care,
      Laura

  3. Hi Laura,
    What a refreshing and eye opening take on the positive side of the Corona virus! Many people tend to complain and see the downside of what our new normal is like but you did a wonderful job of reminding us what good has come from it. It was so nice to look back on the fun things communities have come together to do. I hope the next trend is just as positive and uplifting as the rest!

    • Hi Jocelyn,
      Thanks for commenting. Last year was miserable in many ways and this year isn’t much better, but it’s important to keep our spirits high as we slog our way through the rest of the pandemic. It reminds me of the Spirit of the Blitz we had in the UK during the Second World War. No matter what bad things are going on around us that are out of our control, what we CAN control is how we react to it and how we come together as a community.
      Take care,
      Laura

  4. Hello Laura,

    Honestly, I forgot about the optimism and positive initiatives that happened last year, but your blog was just the reminder I need to see that hope is always there. Yes, Covid-19 hit the world hard and we all are tired and want our pre-pandemic lives back. I believe that the covid-19 social media trends moving forward will be more related to vaccination and less about lockdown.

    Mohammad

    • Hello Mohammad,
      Thanks for commenting. You’re right, we seem to have moved into another phase now where we’re sharing vaccine updates and info. It’s a shame, though. Although vaccine info is important and needs to be circulated (as long as it’s accurate and factual), it’s a shame that we’ve all reached such a point of covid fatigue that a lot of the initial optimism and positivity has been sucked out of us and we’re not just trudging through the days waiting for it all to be over.
      Kind regards,
      Laura

  5. Hi Laura,
    You made me smile, shed a tear or 2 and breath a sign of relief. An absolute pleasure to read and remember all the love and joy that was shared around the world in the last 18 months. Even in the midst of all this chaos. Thank you for reminding me of the love and compassion.

    Cheers,
    Jemma

    • Hi Jemma,
      Thank you for your kind comment, I’m glad my post had an impact. It was nice for me, too, to look back on the support we have offered each other during the pandemic. Watching the news most days it’s hard to see the good side to the human race as we always seem to be tearing each other apart. It’s sometimes nice to remind ourselves that the smallest gestures from everyday people can restore our faith in humanity.
      Take care,
      Laura

  6. This post warmed my heart! It made me remember all of the lovely tributes to first responders and front line workers that I saw pop up around my neighborhood. I think it was a really great and teachable moment for kids, and who doesn’t like doing some arts and crafts? Great post!

    • Hi Caelan,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think the kids will be the hardest hit in the long run and any opportunity to teach them what it means to be kind and come together as one world is important. As adults, we know that this is a terrible situation and that it will eventually be over. Children are resilient and usually bounce back well, but I have to wonder what long-term effects this pandemic will have on their psyches, especially for those who don’t remember the before times as well as the older ones do.
      Best wishes,
      Laura

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