The joke about the internet being wasted on us is well-worn. At any given open mic night you’ll find a comic talking about how the internet exists purely for cat memes. Add to that YouTube fail compilations and other nonsense and you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re wasting a precious medium.
However, with more countries going into lockdown and more people self-isolating, there has a been a surge in online communities. Whether you’re interested in cooking, sport, gaming, fitness, reading, or just want to chat with people online about your interest, it seems COVID-19 has shown people the true purpose of the internet.
Now, by no means have memes and being silly disappeared from the internet. I would argue, now more than ever people are using jokes and memes to deal with stress and anxiety. But, what can be ignored is the amount of sincere internet use that has developed. We’re going to look at a few examples and how the internet is shifting to become the place to work, live, and play.
The biggest and most noticeable increase in web traffic can be seen on communication and organisation platforms. Platforms like Skype and Basecamp will have seen a huge boon as more companies offset self-isolation with daily updates, meetings and project tracking.
Communication is the key to business success. Whether talking about projects between team members or meeting with clients, businesses rely on the internet for communication. Online comms have strengths and weaknesses. Technical issues can derail a meeting but the instantaneous communication also means huge savings on travel and time.
This has affected the environment too as reduced travel and emissions have seen incredible changes take place. The canals in Venice have run clear for the first time in decades and parts of China’s skies that are usually filled with smog have had clear skies and sunshine.
Sales are another area that has had to adapt to the online environment. For e-Commerce sites its business as usual. Orders are booked, then carried out and delivered. Many companies have also adapted their delivery systems to limit contact.
If however, companies don’t have an online shopping platform or work through consultations, they will have to adapt differently. Service providers need to update their practices to offer either remote consultations or add online resources like simplified CAD programmes for designing bedrooms.
Deliveries are another area that has come to feed off the online environment with ‘essential travel’ and ‘travel for business’ the buzzwords during a lockdown. Basics like groceries as well as huge business orders are now reliant on delivery services, making these service providers the lifeblood of online communities.
Working from home has come with its own set of conundrums. After the first few days of not having to put on ‘work clothes’ people begin to realise that exercise and other hobbies also need to be adapted to their home environment.
Gyms have closed and turned to video tutorials and smart gym tech to keep their community going. Yoga, Interval Training, Spinning, Tai Chi, the list of possible regimes and guides is endless.
“Although gyms have been forced to close their doors, many are offering their customers online services instead. UK health club chains, David Lloyd and PureGym are both providing members workouts via their mobile apps, while Nuffield Health is offering workouts via its YouTube channel and wellbeing app. Virgin Active also announced plans to provide workouts through its social media channels and website.”– mobihealthnews
The likes of Peloton and Wattbike are also likely to see a huge boost as their offering perfectly tailored to home exercise amid a digital community.
Cooking shows are perfect for online communities. Who doesn’t remember their Facebook timeline being filled with Tasty videos? Chefs are keen to stay relevant and help out during this trying time and have turned their hand to creating recipes and guides to post on social media.
People are home more and trying out new recipes to fill time and break the monotony of being stuck inside. The Guardian highlighting how the Houseparty video messaging app has become the place for people to host virtual dinner parties is evidence of this.
Home and community life have come to rely on the online sphere for everything including mental health. Facebook has facilitated the creation of 300 local coronavirus support groups (at the time of writing) in the UK alone with thousands of members in each. These nodes have become places for isolated people to socialise, air their views, and get the support they need.
Lockdown has also had a massive effect on how we spend our free time. With limited movement and all large gatherings cancelled, major sporting events have taken a knock. To fill the time professional teams have turned to online gaming instead.
FIFA tournaments with representatives for professional clubs have become one way for football fans to get their fix, while others like Sky Sports have turned to broadcast classic sporting moments such as season-defining Formula 1 races, World Cup finals and endless discussions with past pros. SI Games has also seen record numbers of players on Football Manager.
With stadia standing empty, even the biggest sports teams are leaning on digital means to weather the storm and give fans the sport they crave.
No more Friday nights on the town. Instead, DJs and artists are live streaming performances from home. This has the potential to change how we discover and enjoy music. DJ Mag mused as such in a recent piece;
“By driving much of the growth of music as a category on Twitch, indie electronic musicians are turning the nature of celebrity and artistry on its head. Instead of cultivating a well-polished brand based on some form of mystique, Twitch native DJs are imbuing their creative processes with full transparency from the beginning, and are fostering real-time relationships with fans based on raw and unfiltered rather than overly calculated personalities.”– DJ Mag (taken from Social Media Today)
This guerilla approach to music success subverts the industry-standard method and reminds us of the Soundcloud Rapper boom of 2015. The internet’s effect on music and social life is both a great liberator and disruptor.
Lockdown and self-isolation effects every part of our lives and people are just coming to grips with ways to deal with the new measures. In the coming weeks, we’re likely to see even more ingenuitive ways to use the internet and I for one think this could change the way we work, live and play after lockdown. If this time has taught us anything, it’s that we rely on the digital sphere now more than ever.