The biggest threat to celebrities during the battle against coronavirus doesn’t appear to be the disease, but the threat of being “cancelled” thanks to their horrifying displays of disconnectedness with reality on social media. Take Madonna, the world-famous multi-millionaire who declared Covid-19 “the great equaliser” on Twitter and Instagram in since-deleted posts.
“We are all in the same boat” she said, sitting surrounded by rose petals in a bath that, were it to be sold, the funds raised could probably see me through the looming recession. “And if the ship goes down, we’re all going down together,” she added.
And yet, coronavirus is still in some small ways a leveller. Only weeks ago, I wrote of the burden of “thrilled to announce” culture – the growing pressure to publicly declare every and any work win online. The universe has since intervened, ridding us of opportunities. With vast postponements and cancellations because of social distancing, there is little for most of us to be thrilled about and even less to announce.
At first, many coped by mournfully listing the lost opportunities they would have announced but for the pandemic. Now, as several days have passed and lockdown is official, our social media accounts are catching up with this sudden change. We are pivoting to sharing news about our personal hobbies– knitting, bread baking and gardening – instead of side hustling. I have discovered that people I followed for years have a passion for singing that they’ve never had time to share; I am watching ex-colleagues learning to play instruments. And I’ve been able to pursue my dream of learning to sculpt.
Instagram has aided this shift, releasing a Stay Home sticker to add to your posts, encouraging users to share what they are doing while isolated, such as showing followers how they are passing the time, and vice versa. These updates are less about professional point scoring and more: “PERSONAL NEWS: I’ve just made and eaten my third banana cake of the week!”
Of course, that isn’t to say that home living will remain wholesome and uncompetitive: there are tangible gains to be made during this strange period. The stock market may have plunged, but coronavirus has seen the clout economy boom: three days ago, American DJ D-Nice jumped from having 200,000 followers to 1.3 million on Instagram after a livestreamed dance set that even Michelle Obama tuned into. “The Body Coach” Joe Wicks has become a household name, after conducting daily PE lessons from his living room for schoolchildren. For most of us, however, social media right now is like a low-stakes year 6 talent show, where everyone wins simply by taking part. Perhaps that is something worth taking back with us into the real world when all of this is over.