Here in the United States, we’re used to change, so much that we usually embrace it. But we’ve never had our lives collectively upended so fast and so dramatically as we have since NBA player Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 only two weeks ago on March 12. Since then, we’ve pretty much canceled everything.
In the wake of this upheaval, many vacuums have needed filling, primarily related to how the heck we fill the time when we can’t watch sports or go anywhere. What follows is our ranking of the 10 most impactful cultural influences since “coronavirus” became the most uttered word in the English language.
You’re stressed. You’re working from home. You’re not driving anywhere. You bought beer to support your local brewery or liquor from your local distillery. It feels like the end of the world. You’re on a Zoom Happy Hour. The reasons to indulge in a little drinky before dinnertime abound! And frankly, you deserve it. You’re doing the right thing by agreeing to #StayTheFuckHome so it’s totally fair to keep your personal peace with a little of the sauce. Besides, you’ll walk it off tomorrow!
The growing popularity of bidets was already in the zeitgeist, our general feeling of being weirded out by squirting water at our bums nothwithstanding. Combine that cultural simmer with a ridiculous artificial toilet paper shortage and a general sense that touching anything is kinda gross and dangerous, and suddenly, bidets aren’t just a not-as-weird-as-we-thought idea; they are downright reasonable. Raise your hand if you’ve searched Amazon for one you can attach to your toilet seat…
Walking is the best. Improving your physical, mental and emotional health without breaking a sweat is already a win. But when it’s kind of your main way to interact with the physical world and you get a kick out of the friendly waves and hellos from neighbors you’ve barely ever laid eyes on, it does the trick of countering our persistent isolation. Podcast fan? Suddenly it’s pretty easy to bang out two-hour episodes when a long walk is the primary non-screen activity on offer.
Animal Crossing was first introduced 19 years ago. But the latest release of Nintendo’s social simulation franchise, Animal Crossing: New Horizons dropped with perfect timing on March 20 for the Switch platform. Know a kid with a Nintendo Switch? This is what they are doing right now. Want proof? Just ask them. They’ll barely look up from playing it to mumble an answer. They’re probably so obsessed they’ll barely remember to eat the food you’ve been hoarding.
As more and more cities and states “lockdown” or issue “shelter in place” orders, locals and business owners are forced to come to grips with what is permissible and what isn’t. There’s no single answer, with governments at various levels able to make these calls locally. Fortunately, happiness-dispensing businesses like package stores, breweries and dispensaries are generally making the cut. You could learn a lot about supply chains by examining what industries we ultimately rely on to ensure society continues to function and therefore are considered “essential” in times of crisis.
Never before have non-sports fans been so obsessed with statistics. With terms like “incidence rate”, “logarithmic progression” and “R0,” we’re all trying to parse the numbers to understand both our present and our increasingly scary future. Sites like worldometers.info/coronavirus are getting refreshed like they’re your favorite Twitter feed. The naturally pessimistic among us looking to the numbers to confirm moment-by-moment that things are as bad or worse than they fear. Those in the optimistic camp keep refreshing looking for any sign of a slowdown in infections, critical cases and deaths. Upside? An increased respect for factual information perhaps? But, a caution, as our old friend Mark Twain popularized, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Really, all the streaming platforms. We don’t go to concerts, we don’t go to the park (as much—keep your 72 inches!), we don’t go to work, we just don’t…go. So we’re stuck at home, battling our families and roommates for bandwidth, watching whatever we can find, AirPods in our ears. One can imagine how release schedules are being revised based on the voracious appetite for something, anything, to watch. Would Tiger King have become an overnight phenomenon without COVID-19? Who is to say?
Six feet is our new magic number. Introverts are celebrating and the rest of us are just getting used to figuring out it’s polite to keep our distance from, well, pretty much everyone. This baby is still in the birth canal, though, as this new standard still creates awkwardness when a person who takes all this quite seriously encounters someone who….doesn’t. “Keep away!” or hands held out…or, as comedian Pete Holmes exclaimed upon encountering an old friend on a hike who went in for a hug, “Are you crazy?!?!”
The Governor of New York, known colloquially as the President of the United States, is having a moment. Reminiscent of another New Yorker who powerfully presided over a crisis, (remember that version of Mayor Rudy Giuliani?), Gov. Andrew Cuomo has become the strong, decisive and empathetic voice of reason and action that has been missing from a certain residence in Washington, D.C. What are the chances that recent conversations at the Democratic National Committee have centered around “OMG WHY DIDN’T WE PUSH THIS GUY TO BE OUR NOMINEE?” 100% are those chances.
Zoom, the video conferencing platform, actually launched all the way back in 2011 and has grown steadily since, primarily as a business video conferencing tool. Yet perhaps no company on Earth has benefited more from our sudden need to hang out virtually. The rise of the “Zoom Happy Hour” has been as sudden as it has been weirdly satisfying. Zoom has become the platform of choice for both professional and academic use, but it’s the social use (and for entertainers, the broadcasting use) that has come nearly out of nowhere. If you haven’t gathered with friends and drinks yet, give it a shot. Pro tip: “Gallery View” puts all the faces on a call in front of you at once, enhancing the illusion of actually being together.
A special shoutout to our medical professionals and public health officials, without whom we’d literally have no chance. Their brave efforts can’t be praised enough. They should hold all 10 spots in this ranking, but they need a break, too, so we hope they and you are finding light in these dark days.
Nick Purdy is the co-founder and former publisher of Paste Magazine and co-founder and president of Wild Heaven Beer in Atlanta. He’s on Twitter at nickwildheaven.