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As people all around the world settle into the rhythm of working from home, social distancing, and self-quarantining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an unforeseen situation has arisen as a consequence: the ascent of Instagram challenges. Without the time spent walking to and from class, travelling to work, or hanging out with friends, many young people have found themselves with an unprecedented number of unoccupied hours in their days. To fill this space, millennials and Gen Zers have turned to our trusty friend, Social Media.
An Instagram challenge is typically some kind of task that a user fulfills, posts photo or video evidence of, and then tags a handful of friends, challenging them to do the same. These tasks are not a new phenomenon resulting from self-isolation, but the sheer number and increasing ridiculousness of them is.
The first “challenge,” which purportedly originated in India, implored users to draw an orange. The trend went viral globally, and suddenly images of all kinds of fruits and vegetables flooded people’s stories on Instagram.
Interestingly enough, an unexpected consequence of this phenomenon was its ability to reveal people’s surprising creativity. A handful of users took a simple (i.e. boring) approach to their digital paintings, indicating a potato, for instance, with a solid, brown oval. Other potatoes contained facial features or arrays of anthropomorphic additions, with some paying homage to Mr. Potato Head himself. Drawings of oranges morphed into images of Donald Trump and then into the Lorax and back. People utilized full color palettes, livening up their masterpieces with attention to light and shadow, or took the easy route by throwing an emoji on their screen and calling it a day. The random people we follow on Instagram have appeared out of thin air to demonstrate their hidden artistic talents and then retreat into anonymity.
But it didn’t stop at drawing. Instagram users have taken on a number of challenges. The #10for10 pushup challenge features someone filming themselves doing 10 pushups and then tagging 10 friends to continue the chain. The “Until Tomorrow” challenge, where users post embarrassing photos and keep them up for 24 hours, and the omelette-making challenge, which is self-explanatory, follow similar systems.
While these trends are mostly borne out of boredom, they function as a tool for keeping our connections strong in the face of sudden isolation. Interaction is made easier for friends and family who now might be thousands of miles away. We can make fun of these increasingly silly challenges and get annoyed at their prevalence on our feeds, or we can appreciate how they allow us to maintain our relationships and add a bit of liveliness and humor to the otherwise dismal state of our current world.
So, hey, although quarantine might be boring for most young adults right now, at least we can thank it for revealing the surprising artistic merits of our friends.
— Staff writer Alexis J. Boo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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