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As coronavirus pushes millions inside, everyone is streaming on Instagram Live

On Friday morning at around 11 a.m., former Scrubs co-stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison talked about how they each were staying sane during the quarantine mandate in Los Angeles. At the same time, pop star Miley Cyrus chatted with her childhood friend, model Hailey Bieber, about their makeup routines. 

This was all happening on Instagram Live — where thousands of viewers tuned in to watch rather mundane conversations about rituals and routines play out in real time. 

But celebrities are not the only ones taking advantage of Instagram’s livestreaming feature as the coronavirus keeps millions of people inside, on couches, and glued to screens for a bit of stress relief. 

Everyone is going live. And sometimes, for very boring reasons. You may have seen it for yourself. Open the Instagram app, and there will be a handful of bubbles pulsating at the top of the screen, alerting you that someone is saying something right now!

On Friday afternoon, Crystal Anderson, Man Repeller’s operations manager, drank a cocktail at the kitchen counter while wearing couture and took questions about her apartment’s interior design. Drag queens Diana Dash and Carlos the Uber Driver styled synthetic wigs and chatted about their favorite hairstyles. TikTok mega star Charli D’Amelio mixed a giant bowl of cake batter and chatted with her parents. Comedian Greta Titelman used a Tito’s vodka handle as a weight as she twerked to Nicki Minaj. 

“I don’t care if I only have 10 people watching me on Instagram Live, it motivates me because it’s a performance,” said Titelman. “You have to pop off! People come to be entertained.”

Titelman, who lives in Los Angeles, said she is by no means a trainer, but after her “When the Matcha Hits” dance videos started doing well on her Instagram feed, she decided to move the series over to Instagram Live — a feature she rarely utilized before the novel coronavirus began to spread, keeping her indoors. 

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Went on a first date last night ????

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“It is important to move, and two days ago I didn’t move,” she said in an interview with Digital Trends. “I went from laying down to sitting to laying down and thought, ‘This is hell!’ so the reason why I went live on Instagram is so we all could have fun.”

Starved for entertainment

And that is exactly what people are looking for on social media right now: Entertainment. According to an Instagram spokesperson, Instagram Live and Facebook Live views doubled this past week in Italy, where there is a national imposed quarantine, and home workout posts in the US increased over 5 times on Wednesday compared to just a few days prior.

Quinta Brunson, an actress and co-star in the HBO comedy series A Black Lady Sketch Show, likens the increased interest in Instagram Live to flipping through channels. 

“Innovation plus boredom is creating a new Instagram Live experience,” she said. “Now, I’ll tune in and see what they are talking about, and if they aren’t talking about anything, I keep moving.”

Brunson first went live on Thursday night, a result of her missing being able to be on a physical stage doing stand-up. She was captivated with how comedian Catherine Cohen made her weekly show virtual, and felt inspired to try something similar. So before Brunson tapped “Go Live,” she made sure she gave her audience of almost 900,000 followers a structured show. 

She started off with impressions, accompanied by a laugh track, then into a segment entitled “Tales from the Crib,” and to close it out, she brought in guests to interview like fellow comedian Ramy Youssef and Eugene Lee Yang, one of the Try Guys. 

“It totally brightened my day,” Brunson said of her first Instagram Live experience. “I got one message from someone in London who is in self isolation, and is immunocompromised, who said it was the best part of their day. And to me, that one message makes it so worth it.”

As for future use of Instagram Live, Tietlman doesn’t know if it is something she’ll stick with post- COVID-19. 

“Hopefully post-quarantine, when our lives start to resemble normal again, I hope I don’t have time to do it every day,” she laughed. 

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Meira Gebel
Meira Gebel is a freelance reporter based in Portland. She writes about tech, social media, and internet culture for Digital…
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