- Livestreaming on Instagram has seen a 70% increase in use in the US over the last month.
- Social distancing orders have led many to find new ways to interact and communicate, but the reaction online to the surge of live videos has been widely negative.
- A psychologist told Business Insider the increase in people going Live could be due to a desire to share the mundane details of daily life people would usually share during in-person conversations.
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It seems like everyone, from Cardi B to your distant high school classmate, is going live on Instagram these days — an Instagram spokesperson told Business Insider the platform has seen a 70% increase in use of the Live feature in the last month.
And, although these videos may accrue few views or show off mundane activities — like cooking dinner, making a drink, or chatting with another user — going Live may be how your friends are adequately coping with the loss of daily in-person conversations they're used to.
"Generally, people are not designed to be isolated from each other. It's not evolutionary how we've been programmed," Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University told Business Insider. "People are turning to screens and technology to get their social needs met that they can't get in 'real life.'"
Despite the increase in the number of people using the Live function, a lot of users are not happy about it.
—carol (@bookish_notes) April 6, 2020
Twitter is full of complaints about the row of Instagram Stories at the top of users' feeds being replaced with a slew of livestreams. Others have sworn that tuning into a friend's livestream is an activity reserved as a last resort out of sheer boredom.
—Faaji Alhaji (@Damii_aros) April 11, 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic forces millions to adhere to shelter-in-place guidelines, people are figuring out how to adjust to a norm that finds them lacking social interaction. Ferguson said that social media has become one of the crutches people are relying on to get that social contact they usually would have at school or work.
Instagram Live, specifically, offers a way for people to connect and engage in "real-time," he said. Video-calling platforms that offer similar virtual face-to-face interactions — like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Houseparty — have also skyrocketed in popularity for not only work meetings, but also happy hours with friends and Passover seders. A browser plug-in called Netflix Party, which lets you watch streaming content alongside friends, has also seen increased interest.
It's no surprise then that a rising slice of Instagram's more than 1 billion users have turned to its Live feature on the platform during a time of crisis and isolation.
Not all Instagram Live videos have been unpopular. High-profile figures like Miley Cyrus have delighted fans with celebrity-studded Q and A's, musicians from Keith Urban to Diplo have put on bedroom concerts, and fitness instructors have taught free workout classes.
While some people spend many hours on YouTube watching creators unbox toys or play video games, livestreaming is just another opportunity for entertainment, according to Ferguson.
"On a daily basis, were not doing anything super fascinating," he said. "You'd be surprised how people will follow things on the surface that they think are stupid."
Just like the celebrities who can draw virtual crowds, your college acquaintance or a friend's girlfriend or maybe even you yourself are using the Live function as a way to cope with breaking up the monotony of isolation and social distancing.
Ferguson told Business Insider, "Whether three people see it or 1,000 people see it, we want to share some aspects of our lives with others."