In this temporary era of social distancing and quarantine, most of us find ourselves with more time on our hands. Of course, we can fill this time interacting with our families in-person or over the phone, group facetiming (or group zooming) our friends, but there’s definitely a limit to how much time we want to spend interacting with others.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely appreciate the family time I’ve been fortunate enough to receive. But as I sit across from my sister right now, who is balancing her AP Literature book on her head while staring blankly at her computer, I’m able to recognize that despite the opportunities available for us to interact with our peers, we are bored and in need of new entertainment to enjoy on our own.
Just as educational instruction has increased its presence in remote, online-form, so has literally almost everything else. Whether that’s binging Tiger King or stepping up daily TikTok intake to 10 hours a day, millions have flooded online seeking entertainment. While I can admit that I know “exotic Joe” to a level I never expected, I’ve found myself still looking for something else. And, though I loathe the numerous times I hear “you have nothing better to do,” I find myself bored out of my mind, with really nothing to do.
Luckily, the numerous artists and celebrities I know and love online share this feeling. And as I’ve searched for entertainment in the realm of music and film as I usually do, I’ve found that some of those artists and celebrities are working to actively bring that entertainment to me.
One of my favorite shows for the past two years has been running not on a streaming service or a cable network, but on IGTV (Instagram Television), which broadcasts live and then saves the broadcast for consumption afterwards. John Mayer’s show “Current Mood,“ comes out on Sunday evenings and includes about 45 minutes of loosely scripted material in which Mayer transfers his delightfully funny personality onscreen.
Since first starting his show in September of 2018, Mayer has mainly trekked alone as an artist in the IGTV world. However, just recently, with a movement called #togetherathome, other artists have joined in on the live and intimate platform of Instagram Live.
In partnership with Global Citizen, an organization dedicated to tackling global social issues, #togetherathome began as a way to bring viewers together and call them to action to practice social distancing, take quizzes on COVID-19 facts, raise awareness of the issues caused by the pandemic and support the World Health Organization through donations to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
On March 16, with 300,000 users watching live on Instagram, Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin produced the first video in the #togetherathome series while sitting on his home piano bench and wearing a beanie.
In his usual genuine and silly fashion, Martin sincerely explained his intent for making the live video and instigating a new series of live Instagram performances.
“What would be nice would be to check in with some of you out there and see how you’re doing and where you are and what I can do for you. I had an idea that we could call this thing ‘Together At Home.’ And who knows, maybe tomorrow someone else will take it over,” he said.
The Coldplay singer then proceeded to take requests for songs and played bits and pieces of them with just his voice and the piano. His little mistakes along the way did little to detract from his talent and only accentuated the rawness and intimacy of the concert.
At the end of his performance, Martin called upon John Legend to continue the “Together At Home” performance series. The next day, Legend, accompanied by his wife Chrissy Teigen, joined the movement, bringing his soulful voice and piano skill to his followers.
So far, the movement has spread rapidly, with 53 artists’ live concerts recorded on Instagram Live that are now officially available on Global Citizen’s YouTube channel and many more to come.
The most unique part of the series has definitely been seeing my favorite artists in their true, unfiltered forms. Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s personal chemistry extended to their music as they sang songs together with Mendes playing guitar. As Charlie Puth took many moments to explain the origin stories behind his songs, I got to witness his genuine excitement for finding inspirations to create his music.
Hozier’s characteristically full voice, which I’ve heard in his music and in videos of him singing in subway tunnels, was in full force during his Instagram concert, as he even ventured out to sing an Irish traditional ballad. And as OneRepublic performed their live concert, Ryan Tedder demonstrated his effortful artistry as he sweated just feet away from the camera.
Beyond performing music, artists and celebrities have also taken to Instagram Live just to talk. Ashe, a rising musician known for her song “Moral of the Story,” has gone live to check in on other artists, including Quinn XCII, Finneas O’Connell (FINNEAS) and Christian French, and to converse about challenges they’ve faced and methods they’ve used to cope with what’s considered “the new normal.” Florence Pugh, the actress known for her starring role in Midsommar and as Amy in the recent film adaption of Little Women, continues to share humorous videos of herself cooking on her Instagram. She even provides recipes for her viewers.
New Instagram Live shows have also been produced with explicit philanthropic intent, such as “Save with Stories,” produced in partnership between Save the Children and No Kid Hungry. “Save with Stories” features a variety of celebrities including Chris Evans, Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner and Chris Pratt as they read children’s books to kids trapped in their houses.
Rainn Wilson, most widely known as Dwight Schrute from The Office, has started a show called “Hey Human” on his Instagram page, SoulPancake, dedicated to spreading people’s insights about overcoming obstacles and staying healthy during this time. Just the other day, I put a reminder in my calendar to watch his live interview with FINNEAS, the Grammy-winning music producer and brother of Billie Eilish.
Speaking of The Office, John Krasinski, who played Jim Halpert, has also started his own show on YouTube to bring joy, titled “Some Good News.” In his show, Krasinski good-naturedly comments on "good news” videos — mainly acts of kindness — that have come out of these tough times.
This plentiful volume of well-intended content is overwhelming in the best way possible. Despite the physical distance between people forced by the current pandemic, we are truly closer than ever. Shows and concerts do more than just provide us with entertainment or good news: They remind us that we’re all in the same boat and facing similar challenges, together at home.