It took less than a month for COVID-19 to radically reshape our tastes and habits. Life was normal before suddenly, it wasn’t, and everything that made it good started to disappear.
The bars, restaurants and cafes are shut. You can’t have a party, or visit friends, without running the risk of exposing yourself and others to the virus. Live sport and music have been cancelled. Offices are a thing of the past.
So what are we doing instead? And who’s profiting off our miserably isolated lives? Crikey has a look at some of the cultural phenomena and boredom suppressors keeping us busy.
Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, I want you in my room
One tech platform has taken over the world. Over the last month, visits to video conferencing platform Zoom’s download page have skyrocketed over 500%. From work meetings, to university lectures, parties, weddings and religious events, it’s become the go-to destination for remote socialising, and the centre of our now socially-atomised social lives. It’s also spawned a litany of memes, probably the strongest evidence of its position in the cultural zeitgeist.
Zoom has become so ubiquitous even Very Important People, like Boris Johnson’s cabinet and the Pentagon are using it. And there lies the problem, because data experts argue Zoom still has some pretty serious privacy and security issues. One of the most bizarre challenges is something called “zoom-bombing”, where trolls hack into video-calls and bombard them with racist memes and images. Expect to hear that term a lot more.
What apps are we using?
Zoom is currently the most downloaded app on the Apple app store in Australia. But the full list tells a pretty compelling story about what our lives look like now.
In 2016, an app called House Party, which allows users to video call with groups (called rooms), of friends and play various games joined the crowded field of social networking apps. It continued in relative obscurity, sustained by kids and teenagers, until it blew up in March.
The rest of the list tells a sobering story about what we’re turning our attention to now.
Perhaps disappointingly for the government, its official coronavirus Australia app is down at number 5. And also in the top 10 is the Centrelink app, which has a 1.9 rating, probably the lowest for any app with so many downloads.
What we’re reading and watching
Thanks to the virus, production has stalled on favourite TV shows like Succession and The Handmaid’s Tale, while cinemas will probably be shut for months. That means a lot of people are having to read books again. The top title for the year on Amazon and Dymocks is Delia Owens’ 2018 novel Where the Crawdads Sing.
The lockdown has also been a blessing for Hillary Mantel — her doorstopping 900-page tome The Mirror and the Light, the finale to a best-selling trilogy about Henry VIII’s England, dropped in early March. In the first week of release, it was selling a copy every 2.7 seconds.
Over on Netflix, Tiger King, a documentary about an eccentric, dank-haired zookeeper in flyover America has become the first pandemic-era streaming sensation, and has been the most-watched show on Netflix for the last two weeks.
Why is everyone making bread?
Last week, yeast became the latest item to start running out. The reason — home baked bread has become a new post-pandemic sensation. Sourdough starters seem to be a craze that unites the Anglophone world — with headlines from Australia to Canada asking why everyone is baking bread. None of the articles can give a satisfactory answer beyond “we’re all extremely bored”.