Dear Internet, this is your time to shine!
P.S: We’d have no clue how to survive this without you.
Welcome to 2020. An era where banging thalis is a legit government order. And the police scour the streets for belligerent youth, ready to kick them back inside the moment the step out.
A moment in history where introverts all over the globe are regretting cancelling plans and wish they had actually socialised when they had a chance. And all those memes of “give me unlimited access to the Internet and my bed and I’ll be the happiest” have suddenly become the most ironic jokes of this generation.
For all the millennials and GenZ’s out there, this is perhaps the first time our generation has had all their ‘just hanging out’ aplomb been struck out of their lives. We were the generations nestled in the comforts of globalisation and nourished with the warmth of technological advancement. But all of that has been rudely invalidated because we’re now stuck in this social distancing.
So I’m not going to harp over all of its seen and unforeseen consequences because let’s accept it, no one knows what’s really going to happen. But if you’ve been on to the Internet recently, you must have noticed what I’m sure our progeny will refer to as the epitome of digital culture.
With so many artists, creators, speakers, authors, and patrons of the art taking to social media, there’s been such a boom in online creativity. Makes me wonder, we’re sure living in times of social distancing, but aren’t we more connected than ever?
The Social Media Surge
Remember when our parents accused us of being on our phones too much? Or asked us to go outside and play? Ah, the good old days.
The one upside to this lockdown is the surge in both the quantity and quality of online creativity. The Internet, and social media in particular has become this gathering place of sorts, for people across the globe to come together and share this shared experience.
Because truth be told, we’re all living in this future history class, together.
Memes is this generation’s language of love. We may have forgotten to connect with each other, we may have turned entire notions of love and relationships on their head, but if it’s the one thing we will forever be remembered for, it’s the memes.
And an event as cataclysmic as this lockdown, calls for some special meme game.
But the point here is, there’s something deeper going on here than just trying to make light of situations out of our control.
The online meme culture in its essence reveals a lot about how we, as a culture, are processing the anxiety over this unprecedented pandemic in a digital world. The physical spaces have failed us. And as long as it remains unwise to gather in said physical spaces, we do need to create virtual ones that can help sustain us.
This meme culture is basically an attempt to build an alternate virtual world to replace a broken physical one.
And personally, I don’t think online creativity gets better than this because, have you seen the kind of stuff out there recently?
Dark humour is basically a sort of an effort our brains make to lift the mood a little. Humour is known to connect people. And we need this collective humour to bring us together and create a sense of belonging.
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Virtual Conversations Is The New ‘Live’
Speaking of online comedy, the Instagram Live feature has facilitated so many artists, writers and stand up comics to take to the virtual medium to showcase their art.
Comedians like Vir Das, Kenny Sebastian, Neeti Palta and several others have taken to interacting with the people via their art and their writing through the mediums of IGTV and Instagram Lives, thereby contributing to this shared experience. This subtle commemoration of the online community that they’re building by means of their art is almost a callout for people to create their own.
In addition to influencers of this kind using their power to spread the messaging of social distancing and staying at home, they’re also encouraging people to share and narrate their own stories –something that is a dire need.
We’re all new to this lockdown and we’re all struggling in dealing with it. At this point, all we have to rely on is the support of each other –something which social media is able to create fairly well.
Similarly, a lot of other influential pages in the whirlpool of social media are creating conversations which the world needs right now. For instance, Kool Kanya has begun doing a series of Instagram lives with various experts in different walks of life on a daily basis. Inviting Yoga and fitness enthusiasts, mental health experts, business and entrepreneur dilettantes, etc. all in an attempt to build the community that people need.
Because what can sail us through this phase, is the constant reiteration that we’re not alone in this.
Working in the field of social media for a while now I’ve arrived at the conclusion that hashtags is the Nokia of this generation. It’s been connecting people who perhaps had no clue that they should be connecting.
And now with people relegated to the confines of their homes, a tiny hashtag can open up a new community for you. With hashtags and daily social media challenges like the #artistsofinstagram or the #writersofinstagram, more and more creators are coming together in this shared experience –to share what they’re feeling and to help others make sense of their feelings too.
As a writer on Instagram, a personal favourite community that I came across was this small and fuzzy gathering of writers for children’s books. Trending by the #ThodaReadingCorona hashtag, it’s a bunch of writers taking to social media for reading sessions of their books.
And if you’ve been doing the rounds of Instagram stories recently, you must have come across some of the many #challenges that’s connecting old friends and social media followers you perhaps haven’t engaged with in ages.
A particular #bingochallenge led me into a conversation with an old school friend. Another one of these cohorts was posting each other’s pictures –the ones that you think describe the person best, on your own stories. And this truly gave me such an insight into how people view you as opposed to how you see yourself.
The point here is, memes, social media, virtual conversations, etc. they all come from a place of shared experience. They say a lot without really saying much. They create a sense of solidarity in the viewers and they affirm the validity of an emotion. And considering the precariousness of the position we’re in, we need all the validation and communal empathy that we can lay our hands on.
The Shift In Online Activity
Now here’s the thing that really led me to write this piece in the first place.
We’re a generation of lurkers. Netflix binges consume us and we let YouTube take us into the rabbit holes of escapism.
This has been the status quo for a long time and works just fine if evasion is what you’re looking for. But if you’re looking to find solace out there, lurking alone doesn’t cut it. You want to create community and comfort, and community demands contribution. It demands to be spoken to, it needs engagement and it needs a response.
If this aforementioned surge in online activity has to account for something, it is this need for finding solace. As the real has failed us, we’re flocking to the digital to seek this solace, this solidarity and the affirmation that we’re not alone.
The pandemic has forced us indoors and we’re coming up with newer ways to invest in our digital spaces. It’s a collective attempt to build virtual connections that can at least begin to replace the physical and emotional proximity we’re losing out on.
Moreover, with the increasing physical distances, there is a much higher need for people to get together like never before. The uncertainty in the face of this evil is making us realise that we need to reach out to our loved ones even more.
So here’s a call out to mobilise all support to our real-world communities via the virtual, in times of this need.
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