Escapism: Media in lockdown

With a third lockdown being announced across the UK, suicide rates amongst students continually rising, and laws restricting socialising, it is not uncommon for people to want to escape the reality of living in a pandemic.

The most common escape routes have become streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. During the first national lockdown, taking place in summer 2020, these platforms were being used to a high extent.

However, as we now enter our third lockdown are the British public still relying on these streaming and media platforms as escape routes or are other paths being taken?

During the first national lockdown, many of us held and took part in virtual pub quizzes, baked banana bread and learnt what dalgona coffee is. Although these were a great distraction from our screens, they could not compete with the Generation Z phenomenon that is TikTok. As these fifteen second videos can keep one entertained for hours on end with its never-ending scroll, acting both as a barrier from the world at the same time as making light of the dark events that have taken place over the last year.

It is no surprise that the social media platform is estimated to have increased its number of monthly active users from 680 million in 2018 to at least 1 billion in 2021.

In addition to this, Ofcom reports that 77% of adults (ages over 18) and 83% children (ages 8-15) have used YouTube in the past 12 months. Thus, presenting great attraction to social media and video-sharing sites and applications during lockdown.

With that being said, not everyone who survived the lockdowns of 2020 has maintained their addiction to social media. In an Instagram questionnaire put to over 980 people, the questionnaire asked if people spent less time on streaming sites and social media platforms and if so, how they ‘distracted’ themselves.

Some of the minority voters stated that they have turned their notifications off on social media platforms to reduce their screen time whilst others responded saying reading and using activities like paint-by-numbers and jewelry-making has been effective in keeping them busy.

On the other hand, others agreed that they had spent more time on their devices during the third lockdown than the others. Majority of those who responded validated their vote by explaining that since we spend so much time on our devices for education due to the lockdown and ban of face-to-face teaching, it is easy to use them for non-educational purposes.

However, one follower replied stating they needed to get away from the realities of being a university student during Covid-19 and needed more in this lockdown than in the previous two.

However, in times like these it is important to keep connected, as another voter replied explaining that they would like to reduce their screen time but are held back by the fact that they need to keep connected to their friends, and the easiest and most common forms of communication are through Snapchat and WhatsApp.

So, it’s clear that we cannot always separate ourselves from social media as lockdown has taken so many aspects of normality away, some of these life experiences are forced to take place online.

Although this past year has proved that reality is not always kind with events such as the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, the rioting of Capitol Hill and the UK government voting against free school meals. Ultimately, we cannot allow social media to take over our lives to the point where we are not experiencing reality.