Torontonians rely on online alternatives to connect during COVID-19

Published On March 20, 2020 | By Zee Zaman | News
The coronavirus outbreak is making users spend more time on social media during their self-isolation period. (Chad Madden/Upsplash)
Zainab Zaman

The spread of COVID-19 has made the internet an important link between people.

Health officials keep reminding people it’s important to self-isolate and to socially distance themselves to decrease the risk of contracting the virus. And Toronto residents are turning to social media as the responsible method of communicating and engaging.

Data collected on March 11 from Sprinklr suggests more than 19 million posts were related to COVID-19, whether through live engagement, blogs, hashtags or videos across social media worldwide.

Celebrities, artists, museums and Broadway shows are creating online shows to interact with people under quarantine. As COVID-19 locks people indoors, they feel a bit more normal through online alternatives for entertainment, arts and crafts, and interacting through chats online.

As COVID-19 spreads in Canada, major social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook are making a comeback during this outbreak. These platforms have created a soothing place for viewers to connect with each other and talk about important topics related to the virus. At the same time, media platforms have allowed artists to take over by hosting live concert streams.

Theater MU announced yesterday it will host live casual table reads of shows by Asian American writers on Mu Mondays. The concept was created to provide a social platform during this time while still learning arts and performance.

Social distancing actions have also changed important aspects of the lives of Torontonians. Health officials are continuing to urge bars and restaurants to close down.

Most companies shifted towards moving events online to host concerts and dance parties.

The Minnesota Children’s Museum website has an online show with a host and a list of resources and activities for parents to use for the kids.

Theatre companies like Four Humors are hosting a telethon on April 4 at 7 p.m. that will be live-streamed from the Strike Theatre in Minneapolis, MN.

Technology professional Marc Saltzman says individuals for both professional and personal preference are leveraging free video chatting platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp and Facebook messenger to better connect with others.

“Just because you are self-isolating doesn’t mean you need to be alone, it’s never been easier and more economical to engage in video chat, in fact several people can talk at the same time, teams at work or friends and family members,” Saltzman said.

Artists also have been using their social platforms over the past week staying in touch with their fans and giving them a peek into their lives and how they are dealing with quarantine.

Social media is proven to be a useful tool at a time where people are forced to be away from each other. But, at the same time that some platforms sharing important information about the virus, some are creating and sharing misinformation and outright false information.

“We are in the internet age and the platform doesn’t dictate whether that information is true or false, the onus is on the person consuming the information to fact check and stick with reliable sources when it comes to information and trust a medical professional, not a celebrity,” Saltzman said.

Major platforms including Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube, along with Google and Microsoft, announced last week in a joint statement said how they are working to prevent the spread of COVID-19-related misinformation.

“We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world,” the statement read.

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