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  • Danni Darrah

How has the pandemic influenced popular media?

Already a long list of changes to social norms caused by the virus that engulfed our freedom last year, the ways in which platforms of multi-media is consumed and created can now also be added. While big screen movies and cinema trips sank into a distant memory as production was put on hiatus, social media platforms and streaming services took center stage and reigned with trends, entertainment, and connection for the whole world. The apprehensive alterations made to normality has indisputably changed the way we interact with media platforms, with far more focus placed on monitoring mental health and self-happiness.

Unsurprisingly, the uncertainty and precariousness that the COVID era brought, married with the Government monitored daily walks, we have seen a drastic increase of interest and popularity in the podcast and news listening platforms to reassure and diffuse the pent-up anxiety surrounding lockdown, with listenership more than doubling since 2019. After personally boarding this train, the sensation of escaping the reality of life by filling your mind with engaging chatter and debates (George Ezra and Ollie MN particularly giving me a good Monday morning giggle) whilst waiting in a queue in tracksuits outside Sainsbury’s, it became apparent that this was one way to return to a Friday night in the pub with mates and feel an inkling of a sense of normality. The interest and popularity of the podcast platform continues to grow beyond the lockdown into the activities that we engage in by ourselves. An accessible and fun way to create and consume content, many find the intimacy and familiarity of a podcast appealing and reassuring. Not only does it allow people to listen on the go and distract themselves from anxiety and the abnormal reality, it relieves the tension of camera shyness and awareness, also becoming a more appealing platform to create content on. Let us take a moment for the platform that took a slot in our household vocabulary. Zoom. This video chatting platform, albeit uncomfortable for some to adjust to, allowed us to continue to communicate with others and still receive the non-verbal cues that are important in every conversation. This style of communication has undoubtedly continued to be utilised by companies and industries globally as they realize the power of virtual meetings, as well as it enables a luxury of working in comfort (boxer briefs and a shirt, anyone?). The video chatting platform also changed the way we date. The dating app, Bumble, witnessed a 93% increase in the app’s users engaging with the video chatting feature, begging the question as to whether this will make it easier to filter through future romantic connections without the hassle of commute, deciding who will pay, picking the perfect outfit and finding the all-important excuse to leave (that ol’ babysitter trick won’t work anymore). Is the video chat platform the perfect way to interact now or does it simply take the buzz out of socialization with others?

There are also major ways that creation of media content and platforms has changed too. Content being created on social media increasingly caters to the healthy approach to mindfulness that people have adopted post-COVID, making platforms like Instagram and TikTok feel far less damaging and more exposed. Eye bag trends, food inspiration and crying videos to spread awareness of mental health are some of the few ways that social media platforms are being used to display a true reality, instead of presenting an elevated self. This could understandably be a result of social media being the reality that everyone relied on during the pandemic, this will (hopefully) grow further into post-lockdown life.

Cinemas reopening and lockdown easing has meant that blockbuster films production has only just begun coming back to fruition with the likes of “Jurassic World: Dominion” being among the first to return to production on set. However, some of the biggest global launches across the pandemic were materialized by streaming services such as Disney+ and Netflix. This has ultimately led to whispers of far bigger changes to how we watch big and small screen television in the media industry. Warner Bros, for example, are set to be releasing every movie in 2021 on HBO Max to be watched on-demand as well as in cinemas. The shift of films being released straight to streaming platforms could impact our experience of films and drastically change how we interact with new media. What was once an anticipation and event, film launch dates could now be replaced with a mass releases of continuous on-demand films and series that can be watched and experienced in an entirely different way. Then again, who would want to watch those raunchy second season Bridgerton episodes anywhere but in the comfort of home?

Ultimately, the changes caused by COVID have seeped into every aspect of normality, some better than others and thus, we have had to adapt and adjust to accordingly. The pandemic that the globe experienced catalyzed some shifts that were due to happen within the industry and created some *unprecedented* trends.

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