Social media challenges keep lockdown boredom at bay

Derrick Bryson Taylor, The New York Times

Posted at Apr 23 2020 10:50 AM

Social media challenges keep lockdown boredom at bay 1
Viral challenges on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are helping social media users bat away the tedium of isolating at home. Photo Illustration by The New York Times

With the coronavirus continuing to upend familiar rhythms of life, leaving schools shuttered, millions out of work and billions stuck at home, those looking for ways to pass the time have gotten creative.

In the absence of jam-packed calendars, people are turning to social media challenges in droves. Some bring together families for choreographed dance routines while others spark the inner artist or unlock hidden engineering skills. All of them hold the promise of warding off boredom and — maybe — earning users a moment of online celebrity.

Here are some of the biggest challenges sweeping the world during the lockdown.


Early last month, the lyrics “I just flipped the switch” from the Drake song “Nonstop” inspired a viral challenge on TikTok that eventually made its way to Instagram. All over, people began swapping clothes, poses and sometimes attitudes when the lights are switched off and then back on. A version featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kate McKinnon of “Saturday Night Live” went viral, as did a clip of Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez.


The song “Don’t Rush” by the British hip-hop outfit Young T & Bugsey provided the backdrop for this challenge. In some videos, participants pass around a makeup brush like a wand that magically upgrades their look. One popular take featured New Orleans police officers passing around their hats while another video highlighted disabled women and men.


This challenge attracts creative fashionistas who aim to turn everyday pillows into striking quarantine couture, often using belts to fashionably fasten the pillows around their waists. Actresses Halle Berry, Tracee Ellis Ross and Anne Hathaway all participated in the craze.


In Australia, where lockdowns have halted nearly 30 years of economic growth, residents have begun dressing up as superheroes, Disney characters and sometimes dinosaurs to wheel the trash to the curb. A Facebook group called “Bin Isolation Outing,” which has quickly racked up nearly 1 million members, features photos and videos of residents dressing up for the usually mundane task.

“So basically the bin goes out more than us so let’s dress up for the occasion!” reads a description of the group. “Fancy dress, makeup, tutu … be creative. Post photos to cheer us up, after all laughter is the best medicine.” The challenge has since spilled over onto Instagram and Twitter.


While the pandemic has shuttered most public institutions, museumgoers have shifted their focus online, where people are cleverly replicating famous artworks. Participants use toilet paper, food, old clothes and more to form a living archive of creativity in isolation. The Instagram account @tussenkunstenquarantaine collects and posts submissions from locked-down artists all over. Thousands of replicas appear under the hashtags #tussenkunstenquarantaine and #betweenartandquarantine. There’s also a Russian Facebook group called “Isolation” that features at-home replicas of sculptures, paintings and movie scenes.


When boredom sets in, silly tasks are sometimes the most entertaining, as evidenced by the millions of TikTok, Instagram and Twitter videos posted with the hashtag #trickshot. The objective is to land the shot, no matter how many obstacles or how ridiculous the task. Some popular videos show Ping-Pong balls bouncing off pots and pans or going through complicated courses. Although Ping-Pong balls are commonly used, people have recorded their own #trickshot videos using basketballs, soccer balls and golf balls.

Your First Move Is Their Last Move

This challenge turns family living rooms and kitchens into makeshift nightclubs, where everyone gets a turn on the dance floor. The conceit: Repeat the dance move from the person in front of you, then add your own twist for the person behind you to replicate. The “Your First Move Is Their Last Move” challenge is most popular on TikTok, where there are hundreds of thousands of videos.

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