Beyond being shuttered up in your home, COVID-19 has induced stress in a variety of people for a multitude of reasons. Job losses are rampant, travel plans are shattered, self-improvement regimens for the start of the new decade are in flux, and a viral pandemic is dominating headlines as financial markets hang in the balance. People can’t even go to the gym, which for many personalities, is as much of a mental salve as a physical one.
If you’re stuck at home, especially in COVID hotspots like New York City, the onslaught of uncertainty can seem insurmountable. Especially with Summer just over the horizon, all those road trips, festivals, and fun times you wait out the doldrums of Winter for appear just out of reach.
When it’s difficult to visit friends and Zoom calls are getting stale, how do you reduce social stress and keep your mind off the exogenous troubles facing the world? Social media to the rescue — but not from the behemoths of the past.
Stress & A Changing Digital Landscape
Before a coronavirus took the world by surprise and halted everything, our society was already a hyper-paced mix of social media and work-life balances leaning too much on the work aspect. Throw in an election year and the interminable split of political culture only serves to create more anxiety when seemingly everything is plagued by bias on the Internet. Amid a pandemic, one only accelerates the stress of the other.
Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook serve as public venues for social and political discourse, but even before a pandemic, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who believes spending copious amounts of time bickering with people on the Internet is good for your health. Then COVID-19 hit, and as people lost their jobs, their only outlets were those platforms that they needed a much-needed break from. While technically not unhealthy, per se, sitting on a couch and surfing Twitter or Instagram consistently for two months isn’t ideal for anyone’s stress levels.
Social events, whether a night out with friends or a daily visit to the local gym, can do wonders for your psyche. A dose of the outdoors is often needed away from just being home too, which is not nearly as entertaining when you’re just watching the same Netflix shows, and people posted up at home while experimenting with TikTok videos for the first time.
Many people are learning the ancient technique of going for a walk in the sunlight, and how something so simple can help reduce stress levels. But that social aspect is still missing. We innately search for social connections, even if they’re over the Internet with strangers. And while Twitter, Zoom, and Facebook have formerly provided an outlet for connecting with people, COVID-19 has sparked a distinct change in the way people seek to connect in a digital world.
People want more sophisticated interactions over the web. With a virus swirling around outside, people want to port their social lives from the real-world into their phones. An impossible task to follow through with completely, but some social media platforms are making promising changes in the social media landscape. Considering their early success, they may serve as the outlet necessary to block out the noise and hunker down for a few more weeks without worrying about the sky falling.
Virtual Events, Businesses, & Complex Interactions
One of the most obvious social scenarios that people are missing, and a key element of blowing off steam, are live events. Whether it’s something as simple as a workout class or on a grander scale like a DJ show, people want to gather and participate in events. COVID-19 threw a wrench into those types of gatherings, but platforms like Fiesta are making the virtual world more amenable to live events.
Originally based in Miami as a local party-going and live event app, Fiesta is described as smashing together TikTok, Zoom and Eventbrite. However, with lockdowns in force, the Fiesta team pivoted to its features into the virtual event space. For example, rather than sitting through boring Zoom calls, users can rapidly switch between a live workout class, cooking session, or watch their favorite live DJ streaming at night with a massive audience of followers.
Users simply download the app, and then can discover themed parties or virtual events happening now or in the coming days — COVID-19 or not. For the socially active city-dwellers, Fiesta can serve as the release valve for a non-existent social life over the last couple of months. But it even caters to other audiences, such as brand influencers or entrepreneurs looking to build audiences and bring in new customers with clever ideas for events or themed parties amid quarantine. And eventually, such work put in during uncertain times may pay off big time once everything opens back up.
But the marked changes in social media from COVID-19 don’t just stop there. As people are spending 20 percent more time on apps during quarantine, opportunities abound.
Some offer wide-ranging psychotherapy sessions for people troubled by the current times. Others, like UrSafe, have capitalized on social distancing measures with a clever new take on digital dating. LoomieLive is even bringing Hollywood to the social media scene with its refreshing avatar-based take on Zoom and other virtual meetup platforms.
Don’t forget about the often overlooked live-streaming powerhouses like Twitch, which has been exploding in popularity from lockdowns — moving away from a gamer-specific audience to encompass more diverse groups of users.
All of these platforms have tinkered with social media designs and innovation at an accelerated pace because of COVID-19. And with the lifting of quarantines on the horizon, many of these platforms are likely banking on translating their users during lockdowns into the non-COVID world where live events come back with a fervor.
For the stressed out, these new designs on social media offer an invigorating outlet beyond the traditional social media powerhouses. They may not replace a live event at your favorite concert venue with your friend, but they’re toiling away at blurring the line between the physical and the digital.
As far as reducing quarantine-induced anxiety goes, that’s an exciting opportunity.