We’re losing our collective minds out there in the in-there land. Indoors and self-isolating, we’ve rediscovered some of the tools we’ve come to know as burdensome as friendly reminders of our connection to others. In addition, there’s been a huge uptick in creative content that’s been attributed to the cloistering. Some of it is the usual fare, some of it is mild reworking of old jokes, and some are creative interventions to the new way of being digital.
Living digital and being socially isolated means that we can mindlessly scroll our feeds or we can participate in the environment. While we’ve started to figure out how to make Zoom backgrounds, many users are now becoming inadvertent multimedia producers.
I’m sure there’ll be a media studies phd dissertation in a few years that’s titled something along the lines of “Viral Media: An Analysis of Online Media During the Coronavirus” or something like that and honestly, I think that’ll be a great study. We’re in a time where we may be burdened by the need to stay home, but simultaneously, we have the privilege of creating distinct era-based content, however strange it may be to celebrate pandemic content.
Emma Grey Ellis’s article in Wired “Is it ok to make Coronvirus memes and jokes” touches upon the ethical dilemma of finding humor in this severe time. She notes that gallows humor is an acceptable way of dealing with the stress as long as it isn’t being used to stoke racial tensions or misinformation. For the first time in many people’s lives, the sharing of a global event coincides with an unbelievable amount of ways to create reactive content.
The stress of the current moment is affecting everyone differently — from those that know people who have unfortunately been exposed or suffering from Covid-19 to those who are self-isolated and uncomfortable with the unknowns to those who are racked by the lack of answers or plans from the government. Thankfully, we are in this together and can experiment with media production and creative content. In a 2016 study, researchers found that spending 45 minutes doing creative work reduces cortisol (see: stress) levels and helps opening new pathways of the mind.
With the abundance of tools, video creation, remix, and short form video storytelling are being produced. It harkens back to the early broadband web era (2005ish to 2008ish) where remix culture and creative misuse were dominant features of the new tools web. Today, we have TikTok, a tool that nearly demands remix the way that social media demands to know “what’s happening” or “what’s on your mind.”
The media of the moment should be archived as the form of expression that provides how we’re dealing with the global event. We’re really well aware that memes are an expression of our anxieties, but as we now have more time on our hands with the reduction of commuting and social activities, the more difficult media — that of visual production — is now being produced handily.
Some of the media could be even characterized as quarantine media, or content created by sheer boredom. In the coming week(s?) I think we’re going to see an increase of this type of content while we normalize the wfh life and continue to try our best to keep our social distance to help those who are vulnerable.
In my video courses I always tell students to push the boundaries of the normal. For the years in college they have the excuse of saying “it’s a student project!” if things go awry. For this period of life we can say “it’s quarantine content!” and have more latitude to be creative without bounds.
For the students and the young people (and myself) who’ve had better plans for this year, the social isolation sometimes feels as though we’re on a collision with a year with negative outcomes. Be present and try to have fun. Create quarantine content and continue to do your best in this unique and trying time.