TikTok intergenerational dance

The past few weeks have seen major changes in people’s lives and routines globally. With many of us self-isolating to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, our collective attention is turning to online social platforms unlike ever before, in an effort to keep us both connected and entertained.

Innovation in content creation, and shifts on and among the platforms themselves are unfolding at a dizzying pace. And with more content comes more competition to reach communities, ideally while prioritizing meaning and entertainment. Here is how we’ve noticed behavior is changing on social platforms.

Going Live

If you’re a regular Instagram user, you’ve probably noticed a spike in notifications for Instagram Live streams, and their associated icons pulsing at the top of your feed. You’re definitely not alone. As people are staying inside, more creators are using the live platform than ever before, to reach and communicate more personally with their followers. With live discussions in comments, options to stream with other users and the top-of-feed delivery, this method of communication is quickly becoming people’s platform of choice for engaging with their followers in these times. The best thing about livestreaming is that there is relatively little barrier to entry, such as minimum follower count or verification: anyone with an Instagram account can go live. With options for multiple users to join forces to livestream, this method is effectively providing an exchange of audiences, and getting multiple communities to come together to support the users they are following.

Instagram Interface on an iPhone with Miley Cyrus livestreaming with a celebrity guest

Miley Cyrus interviews guests in a regularly scheduled Instagram Live segment.

Cross-Generational Content on TikTok

TikTok’s low-level production value and simple in-app editing makes it accessible for most people with a smartphone, but up until recently its main user base has been Gen Z, the most tech-native generation to date. With many families at home together throughout the past few weeks, there’s been a rise in multi-generational TikTok content, with Gen Z getting their parents, grandparents and siblings involved. With short-form video challenges made by parents, for parents growing in popularity, and parents getting involved in viral dances, social media is being used as a tool to bring generations together during their quarantine.

@the.mcfarlandsYou asked for it… Here it is 📸 ##blindinglightschallenge ##blindinglights ##happyathome♬ The Weeknd – Blinding Lights – gregdahl7

Communication Apps

The rise in video communication methods is both extremely useful for community-building and support, but can also be fun and innovative ways of staying in touch with those close to you. Both the Nextdoor and Houseparty apps have seen an increase in users since self-isolation started, with people eager to retain their connections with people as normally and effectively as possible. As people began to isolate at home, the video hangout app Houseparty, a somewhat more casual version of Zoom, had 2 milllion downloads last week, compared to 130,000 a month ago. In terms of community resilience, Nextdoor has become a powerful platform in helping people support each other and organize within their neighborhoods. The app’s engagement has risen by up to 80%, with a surge in users taking to the platform to assist with tasks like pharmacy pick-ups and grocery shopping for neighbors who are most at risk. Facebook has also experienced a 70% uptick in video calls on their messenger platform, demonstrating how a video call has become a preferred option for many as it can be more personal than a phone call.

Four screenshots illustrating features of the Houseparty app

Features available on the Houseparty video conferencing app.

Innovative Entertainers

The entertainment industries have been significantly impacted by self-isolation restrictions, with musicians, dancers and celebrities amongst the masses turning to social media to maintain continuous content and connection with their fans and followers. As noted, many are using Instagram Live to hold Q&As with their followers, or doing live sets from their living rooms, effectively involving their audiences in their content creation. Music artists who have had to postpone or cancel shows are holding virtual tours, in some cases with each ‘tour date’ being a livestream on a different platform, typically across Facebook, TikTok and Instagram. In the world of TV, Ellen was seen moving from her TV platform to IGTV, creating a series where she calls different A-list celebrities from her contacts, creating an innovative social media version of the classic TV segment.


The Global Citizen and World Health Organisation initiative #TogetherAtHome consists of a series of concerts and programming infused with factual news about the COVID-19 virus. The hashtag trend is being used by those with influence to build safe spaces for communities to access both entertainment and information. Priyanka Chopra’s collaboration with World Health Organization doctors on a #TogetherAtHome Instagram Live stream demonstrated the power of influence. Alongside medical professionals, she debunked myths about the virus and gave viewers a rundown of the proper means of limiting its spread, such as effective hand washing etiquette, to over 45,000 people. Highlights were uploaded to IGTV for longevity.


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and right now we’re all searching for clarity. My friends at @WHO and @glblctzn graciously brought the doctors working on the front lines here to give us answers straight from the experts. Please take some time to watch my IG Live with Dr. Tedros (General-Director at W.H.O.) and Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove (Technical Lead for Covid-19) from @WHO, who answered some questions that so many of you sent in. Guys, let’s make it our duty to donate to @WHO and stand in solidarity to help flatten the curve (link is up in my bio 👆🏽) and please tag your friends and family below who are looking for answers and action steps 🙏 Thank you so much Dr. Tedros and Dr. Maria for taking the time, and thank you @glblctzn for everything you do. Everyone please be responsible, stay home and stay safe ❤️ #Covid19 #Coronavirus #WorldHealthOrganization

A post shared by Priyanka Chopra Jonas (@priyankachopra) on

Social media platforms are increasingly being used to fuel creativity, build community and support mental health during this challenging time, and we’re seeing affirmation of values like unity and transparency across content. It’s expected that online creators will continue to become more and more inventive and frequent with what is shared, although the competition to be visible is at an all time high. With each platform so saturated with content, it’s crucial that the spread of uplifting and fact-checked material is at the forefront, in order to continue to have a positive impact on communities.

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Cover image source: elladavies42 on TikTok