Pandemic Optimism: How Social Media Helped Us Stay Sane

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:

Twitter: Pandemic optimism, a user’s guide: Take a look at my latest post here:


Addley, E. (2020, May 28). Clap for our carers: The very unbritish ritual that united the nation. Retrieved April 07, 2021, from

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

BBC. (2020, April 11). Coronavirus: Rainbow TRAIL success Surprises Ipswich mum. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from

The Captain Tom foundation. (2021). Retrieved April 07, 2021, from

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

Royal Canadian Mint. (2021). 2020 recognition medal & Magnet. Retrieved April 07, 2021, from–magnet-prod3670019

Waite-Taylor, E. (2021, February 03). Celebrate the life of Captain Tom Moore with these books. Retrieved April 07, 2021, from

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

You know the original, but these coronavirus song parodies are catchy too. (2020, April 02). Retrieved April 06, 2021, from

The Deadly Side of Social Media

The Deadly Side of Social Media

We all know the good side of social media: making new friends, posting awesome vacation pics, keeping up-to-date with the latest news and celebrity gossip, and wasting a few hours going down the YouTube rabbit hole.  But social media isn’t all sunshine and roses.  It has a dark side, and it’s easier to get sucked into it than you’d think…

I Challenge Thee to a Duel!

We’ve all heard of internet challenges.  From the Diet Coke and Mentos challenge to the Planking Challenge, they’re a fun distraction and keep young people entertained.  Some of them are even helpful, such as 2014’s Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised over $220 million worldwide for ALS charities.  But sometimes, they go wrong.  The most famous example that had deadly consequences is the Tide Pod Challenge.

For those who have been living under a rock, the Tide Pod Challenge was floating around the internet in 2018 and was said to encourage teens to eat laundry detergent pods.  Its origins go back to 2013, when eating Tide Pods became a meme.  It circulated around the internet for a few years, with most people seeing it as a joke.  In 2018, however, it resurfaced and gained popularity, leading to intrepid teenagers filming themselves eating the laundry pods and posting the clips on YouTube and Facebook.  Sounds crazy, right?  Still, several people took part in the challenge and encouraged others to do the same.  Internet challenges are all fun and games until someone gets poisoned…

Tide Pod Challenge

The Tide Pod Challenge isn’t the only such challenge to get out of hand.  In 2020, a similar trend emerged on TikTok encouraging people to overdose on the antihistamine drug Benadryl.  It seems that common sense doesn’t always factor into internet challenges.

Why Would I Need a Mask?  I’m not Batman!

A lot of people use social media to stay informed on current affairs and to share knowledge and information.  However, one of the risks of social media is that the content isn’t controlled.  Anyone can post anything they like (within reason), which often leads to misinformation being spread much further that it would have done in the past.

Internet misinformation isn’t a new phenomenon.  It has always been used for people to express their views uninhibited, no matter how extreme those views may be.  However, in recent years the situation has taken a slightly more dangerous turn.  There have always been risks to social media misinformation, such as encouraging reckless behaviour or spreading falsehoods that can encourage prejudicial attacks.  In the last year, however, we’ve seen an uptick in false claims, wacky virus cures, and downright deadly behaviour. 

Anti-masker at a protest

The ongoing pandemic has been a hotbed of misinformation and has seen the rise of some very dangerous information.  Anti-maskers have been protesting mandatory mask mandates, claiming that their Google searches and shared posts trump the medical degrees held by the doctors advising the government.  Since the beginning of the rollout, antivaxxers have also been taking to social media to expound on the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine.  Some people even post on social media in an attempt to convince people that the virus is a hoax.  Such behaviour undoubtedly has already cost lives, and countless more people duped by these internet “experts” are likely to succumb to the disease in the future.

Social media has also been an outlet for fake COVID cures and preventions.  A certain world leader’s claims that disinfectant could be used to cure the virus blew up the internet, with Lysol having to make a public statement that their products should not be consumed.  Another viral (no pun intended) piece of misinformation that popped up all over social media as the use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria medication, as a possible preventative drug. 

If drinking bleach didn’t kill you, then taking malaria tablets that increase the risk of heart failure might just do the trick. 

It’s All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses a Life

Internet challenges are often fun, even if some take a somewhat dangerous turn.  However, another social media trend that doesn’t even pretend to be innocent often leads to self harm and even suicide.

Dangerous games are nothing new.  They are often aimed at vulnerable and naïve young people who are easily led down a dark path.  Some internet trends in recent years have tapped into the teenage lust for a dangerous thrill and have encouraged such behaviour as setting yourself on fire, burning yourself with salt and ice, and cutting yourself and posting photographs of the evidence.  Such trends often fly under the radar until parents start to notice the damage their children are doing to themselves, by which point it is often too late.  Young people who are suffering from mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are particularly vulnerable and, in some cases, the outcome can be tragic.

Salt and ice challenge

Another phenomenon that is not unique to the modern internet era is mass suicide.  The internet, and social media, have made it increasingly easy for people to find groups of like-minded individuals, which occasionally leads to tragedy.  In Japan, social media and specific websites have been linked to suicide pacts since 2003 and the phenomenon does not look like it will slow down anytime soon.

It’s not just suicidal people who can be led to take their own lives by anonymous internet users.  In 2015, a young girl in Russia committed suicide in an event that would take Russian social media by storm.  Her death was linked so the Russian social network VKontakte, on which she had been an active participant in several very specific groups.  After her death, a picture began to emerge of an online game called the Blue Whale Challenge, wherein players would complete 50 challenges over 50 days.  The challenges started off quite benign, but grew more sinister as time went on, culminating in suicide as the final challenge. 

One challenge is supposedly to cut the image of a whale into your arm

The image of the blue whale became linked to this challenge and after the deaths of two other teenagers, rumours began to spread, and articles appeared in the media citing this new internet challenge as the cause.  The details of the challenge were hard to pin down and despite an arrest being made of the so-called instigator of the challenge, it was ultimately concluded that the challenge wasn’t real, but rather a trend that had gained momentum due to its infamy, rather than its real existence.  It is not known how many teenagers took their lives in connection with this challenge, but many were linked to the image of the blue whale and the internet forums frequented by the earliest victims.  Hoax or not, the Blue Whale Challenge indisputably led to tragedy for many families.

So What Next?

Social media is undoubtedly a useful tool and a source of amusement for people across the globe.  However, it is important to keep in mind that it is also a double edged sword with a dark side.  So, make sure you keep an eye out for misinformation and check your facts.  Look at internet games and challenges with a critical eye.  And, most importantly, look out for your vulnerable friends and family, because you never know where social media may lead them.

Facebook: Check out my latest blog on the dangers of social media here:

Twitter: The dark side of social media: Take a look at my latest post here:


10 crazy internet challenges of the decade: How many of these viral trends did you try? Latest News by

Times now News. (n.d.).

5 Dangerous Online Games That Have Driven Teenagers To Self-Harm And Even Suicide. IndiaTimes. (

(2017, August 2).

Adeane, A. (2019, January 13). Blue Whale: What is the truth behind an online ‘suicide challenge’? BBC


Bloomberg. (n.d.).


Knapton, S. (2020, July 27). Rise of the anti-maskers: The psychology of why face coverings are causing

so much upset . The Telegraph.

Silva, C. O.-de. (2008, September 18). Too Lonely to Die Alone: Internet Suicide Pacts and Existential

Suffering in Japan. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry.

Solomon, B. (2018, January 23). Social media sites ban Tide Pod challenge videos.

5 Ways to Make the Most of Being an Expat

5 Ways to Make the Most of Being an Expat

In our globalized world, more and more people are taking the opportunity to live and travel overseas.  Whether it’s teenagers taking a gap year before university, young professionals accepting a work transfer abroad, or seniors retiring in the sun, there are more and more reasons for people of any age to settle in a different country. 

Old Quebec City

But what exactly is an ‘expat’?  Good question.  An expatriate is a temporary or migrant worker who lives and works in another country for a set period of time.  The difference between an expat and an immigrant is that expats usually plan to go back to their home country at some point.  Countries and cities with a lot of migrant workers often have a vibrant expat community, who provide security and support for people who are feeling far from home or who are experiencing culture shock. 

Expat communities are a great way to get to know the local area, but they are not the only way.  Social media can come to the rescue and help people make the most of their travel experience.  So here are 5 ways that social media can help you make the most of being an expat.

Travel Blogs

No matter where you go in the world, you are sure to find someone who has blogged about it.  Travel bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the advantages of bloggers’ pages is that they tend to be a bit more honest than most travel literature.  Your travel guide is all well and good to get a general impression of a place, but bloggers often live in the places they write about and have some up-to-date inside knowledge on how things work.  They’re often good sources of tips and tricks for surviving in a foreign land.  Many travel bloggers are migrant workers themselves, often living there on temporary work visas and doing bar work or teaching English.  Blogs can not only give you inspiration for local places to visit, but can also give you some realistic expectations for what living in a lace is really like. 

Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto, Japan

A lot of blogs cater to specific needs as well as specific places.  For example, JourneyWoman is a blog that caters to solo female travellers, with tips on what to do and how to stay safe.  For couples, Practical Wanderlust gives some insight into navigating travel for newlyweds.  For seniors, Life Part 2 can inspire people to get out of their homes and make the most of their twilight years. 

There are also blogs that follow specific themes, such as eco-friendly travel, LGBTQ+ advice, and outdoor adventures.  Expat blogs are more detailed than travel blogs, such as Travelling Mama’s adventures in Morocco or Diary of a White Indian Housewife, which describes a white Australian’s life in Mumbai, India.  So, wherever you move to, be sure to check out the local blogs and get the inside scoop!

Social Networks

Most people are familiar with using social networks on a regular basis.  They can be a great source of information when you are living and working in another country.  For people who are comfortable using Facebook, there are usually groups they can join that are specifically designed for expats in certain parts of the world.  Facebook groups come in all shapes and sizes, so chances are there is a group for your nationality based in any major city in the world.  These groups can be useful for a variety of purposes, such as organising social gatherings, passing on local news, or giving people a head’s up about where to buy familiar imported goods locally. 

St Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow

For the more adventurous expat who would like to mingle more with the local people, you should check out any local social networking sites that are specific to that country or language group.  Facebook is international and is used in most countries around the world, but in a lot of places there is a local equivalent that is much more popular.  For example, expats in China who have some knowledge of the language should check out Sina Weibo or WeChat, people living in Russia or the former Soviet Republics can find friends on VKontakte (VK), and Skoob is a source of local info for people in Brazil.

Expat Forums

Forums, like social networks and blogs, can provide expats with a lot of good local information and tips.  As well as local advice on where to shop, how to find a plumber, and if there are jobs available, there are usually boards dedicated to specific purposes, such as making friends, offering and seeking services, or asking for advice.  Like Facebook groups, forums can bring expats together and form a community, but can also give local people access to that knowledge as well.  Unlike Facebook groups, which are often closed and are specific to one nationality, forums are open and can include people from different backgrounds.  They can also allow locals to search through and find services offered by expats, such as language lessons or translation work.

Mosel Valley, Germany

As with other forms of online information, you have to go through and search for a forum that is specific to the country you will be living in.  For instance, if you live in Russia, you might want to join, or if you’re an American living in the UK, then UK Yankee is the way to go.  A useful resource is ExpatForum, which has an extensive list of forums for different countries worldwide.


Twitter is a powerful tool that can be used to share and receive ideas at a lightning fast pace.  Avid users are skilled at hashtagging their way through life and being constantly connected to the latest news, celebrity gossip, and political scandals.  But how can it help us with living abroad?

Budapest, Hungary

When we use Twitter, our content is curated by algorithms and the people we follow.  So, if you live abroad, the best way to keep your finger on the pulse is to follow some local users.  National celebrities will give you an idea of pop culture in your host country, local news stations will keep you up to date on what’s happening in your city, and fellow expats and immigrants will give you the best of the best when it comes to local gossip.


Everyone likes photos, that’s why when we travel, we always have our phones out, snapping the best bits and posting them online for our friends to see.  Instagram is a great place to keep all of those carefully posed snapshots and spontaneous pics that will haunt us forevermore.  However, how can this enhance the expat experience?

Nashville, Tennessee

By following some local Instagrammers, expats can get some suggestions and ideas for places to go and things to see that will help them to make the most out of their stay abroad.  After all, what’s the point in going half way around the world if you don’t get out and see anything?

Igloo complex, Nunavik, Quebec

So what do we take from all of that?  The life of an expat can be full of twists, turns, and missteps, but by taking full advantage of all that social media has to offer, you can make the most of the experience and maybe find some hidden gems while you’re at it.  So next time you think about taking the plunge, head on over to some expat forums, blogs, and Facebook groups, and see if you can’t get to low down before you go.

Facebook: Find out the best ways to make the most of your expat experience. Read my tips at:

Twitter: See my 5 ways to make the most out of your #expat experience in my new blog post. Find it here:

The Emerging Stars of Museum Social Media – A Pandemic Journey

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in a multitude of ways, from the mundane and obvious to the more surprising.  One of the sectors that has taken social media by storm is, shockingly, the heritage sector.  When we think about museums, we think of educational school visits, highbrow tourism, and parents desperately trying to keep their kids entertained during the summer break.  Museums are usually a highly visual activity, such as spending hours meandering the halls of the Louvre or basking in the art in the Hermitage.  Sometimes they are interactive and engaging, with lots of hands-on exhibits and things we can touch.  When we think about museums, though, the online component is not the most obvious.

Like many industries, the heritage sector has taken a major hit as a result of yo-yoing lockdowns, stay at home orders, and social distancing.  Many museums are running at limited capacity and most smaller institutions have closed down completely for the duration.  Without visitors, it could signal a death knell for a museum if they are not able to retain public interest.  So, in this era of social media, the museum nerds have done what nerds do best.  They’ve taken to the internet and spread their passion for their subject to the world, in a variety of quirky ways.

A Friendly Rivalry

Museums across the world have used the pandemic as an excuse to show off some of their collections online using media such as Twitter and Instagram.  Over the course of several months, curators have built up a friendly rivalry when it comes to their artifacts, with so-called ‘curator battles’ taking place on a regular basis.  Started early on in the pandemic, the Yorkshire Museum in the UK challenged its international colleagues to a series of battles of the best objects, with hashtags such as #BestMuseumBum, #CreepiestObject, and #SassiestObject trending on Twitter as part of the #curatorbattle.

With so many obscure and attractive objects, it’s hard to say who won each of these battles.  Enthusiasts the world over can’t wait to see what sort of themes they come up with next!

An Unconventional Star

With museums’ doors closed for the foreseeable future, staff are working at home as much as possible, which adds an added layer of complication when maintaining a vibrant and relevant social media presence.  One museum in the United States found a good solution to the problem of their staff not being on site.  The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City made the unusual decision to delegate their social media posts to the one employee who is always on site – the head of security!

Tim the security guard has become an internet sensation with his appealingly naïve posts on the museum’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages.  For the museum’s followers, it’s been an entertaining voyage into the technological awakening of a social media novice, with Tim learning such skills as posting photos, tagging people, and using hashtags.  Over the last twelve months, we’ve learned more about Tim in these posts that we have about the museum, and people are loving it.

Audience Participation

It’s not just the museums themselves who have become involved in social media trends to stave off pandemic fatigue.  The general public have embraced the opportunity to break up the monotony of lockdowns by engaging in making their own art replicas.  The trend of people creating elaborate setups in their homes to imitate famous artworks has swept across the world, with efforts ranging from the half-hearted to the epically brilliant.  Instagram and Twitter have become awash with Mona Lisas, Girls with Pearl Earrings, and Screams. 


Searching Instagram for #mettwinning, #betweenartandquarantine, and #gettymuseumchallenge can provide hours of fun for the art aficionado and casual scroller alike.

What Next?

As the pandemic shows no sign of dying down any time soon and people are spending another winter in isolation, museums are continuing to innovate and bring entertainment to the masses in the form of online virtual tours, webinars and lecture series, and interactive challenges.  What’s coming next, you may wonder.  If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that human beings with nothing to do will find ever more creative ways to keep themselves entertained.  If they can learn a little bit about culture any heritage along the way, then so much the better.  So, when you’re scrolling through the internet on a chilly afternoon in lockdown, think about the wealth of online offerings from our world’s greatest cultural institutions and consider getting involved in the latest sensation brought to you by our emerging social media stars.

If you’re looking to get involved in the art challenge, you can find more information on Facebook.

For upcoming lectures by the Bytown Museum, you can find more information on Twitter.


Bruner, R. (2020, April 10). People Start Trend to Re-create Classic Art Amid Coronavirus. Time.

Dafoe, T. (2020, July 16). A UK Museum Challenged Bored Curators Around the World to Find Art History’s ‘Best Bums.’ See Their Cheeky Responses Here. Artnet News.

Guardian News and Media. (2020, April 20). Museums hold Twitter showdown to find world’s creepiest exhibit. The Guardian.

Home Page. Yorkshire Museum. (2021, January 14).

Oklahoma City, OK. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. (2021, January 12).

Pesce, N. L. (2020, March 27). This security guard at a cowboy museum is learning the ropes on Twitter, and it’s everything right now. MarketWatch.