Now at home, people bring their offline passions online with YouTube

Gina Shalavi / May 2020

In recent months, we’ve been exploring how people around the world look to online video to adjust to life during a pandemic. From finding new ways to connect with people while social distancing to absorbing information and learning new skills, we’ve seen people gravitate to YouTube to cope with and adapt to life at home.

An illustrated scene of a computer sitting on a desk between a plant and a coffee cup. The computer plays a video showing the same scene. More than 65% of viewers say that YouTube content feels like real life.

And now, with the world a few more months into the COVID-19 crisis, we continue to see new at-home behaviors emerge that go beyond simply addressing daily essentials. With more than 65% of viewers saying that YouTube content feels like real life,1 it makes sense that people are using the platform to access and explore the things they’re passionate about while they’re spending more time at home. Here are three ways we’re seeing people turn to online video to experience things they love during the pandemic.

Indulging in the arts

While springtime in the northern hemisphere signals the start of music festival season, much of this year’s slate was canceled or postponed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Almost immediately, live streams emerged as a digital replacement to alleviate fan disappointment, boost morale, and give people a way to continue enjoying their favorite music, along with many other performing arts.

In mid-April, hundreds of thousands of live viewers around the globe tuned in to #OneWorldTogetherAtHome, a star-studded concert series produced by the social movement Global Citizen and the World Health Organization. Other organizations have taken to offering free live broadcasts on a regular basis too. The Seattle Symphony, for instance, streams performances several days a week, and the legendary Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow rebroadcasts its most popular past ballet and opera performances live. Even Het Concertgebouw in the Netherlands has joined in, hosting its annual Mahler Festival online.

In Denmark, they took to drive-in theatre as a social distance-friendly alternative to live concerts and comedy shows. The Swedish National Radio’s famous symphonic orchestra has been performing concerts without audiences, solely for the purpose of streaming its world-class appearances free of charge. In the Netherlands, a host of virtual events were organised in celebration of King’s Day, from Radio 538’s live streamed DJ set to a special concert held in an empty Rijksmuseum.

And it isn’t just prominent institutions making live music and performing arts available virtually. Since March 15, more than 1,500 videos with “virtual choir” in the title have been uploaded to YouTube, earning over 9 million views.2 Take London’s Camden Voices choir as proof. Their rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” has gained over 1.5 million views in one month’s time. And in Denmark, musicians collectively took to YouTube for live concerts and living room performances.

Keeping the faith

Restrictions around mass gatherings have also had a significant impact on how and where people worship and practice spirituality. As churches, temples, and mosques around the world closed, many religious leaders took their services online as a way to continue to connect with the faithful while limiting physical interaction. And the faithful have embraced this new digital approach.

During March, for example, when Pope Francis began live streaming mass from the Vatican, Vatican News more than doubled its combined lifetime subscriber base across its YouTube channels.3 And in early April, millions of viewers joined live stream services in observance of Easter.

On Easter Sunday alone, religious live streams in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States represented over 30% of each country’s top 100 most popular live streams.4 In fact, religious services have been among the biggest live stream events on Sundays in these countries since social distancing took effect. And the same trend can be witnessed across the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark.

Connecting over shared interests

The opportunity to venture out and connect with others who share our interests — whether it’s a book club, a cooking class, or cafe culture — has all but vanished during this pandemic. As a result, we’ve seen an uptick in viewers turning to YouTube for a temporary alternative.

One way people are connecting with like-minded communities is through “Day in the Life” videos, which allow everyone from mothers to celebrities to share what a typical day is like for them. Uploads for this genre have increased more than 85% since March 15, compared with the start of the year.5 Since social distancing restrictions have been in place, we’ve also seen a subgenre emerge that exposes daily behavior under quarantine; videos with “day in the life” and “quarantine” in the title crossed a milestone of 100 daily uploads on March 21.6

Another way people are connecting to interest-based communities is by replicating their community’s rituals at home. Cafe culture is a great example. For those craving a visit to their local barista, videos about specialty coffee drinks are providing a fix. Beginning in mid-March, the “dalgona” whipped coffee trend took off on YouTube, through tutorials showing how to prepare the cafe-style treat using just three ingredients (instant coffee powder, sugar, and hot water) and a hand mixer. Between March 15 and April 6, the average view of videos with “dalgona” in the title increased by more than 5,000%.7 While growing in popularity worldwide, this trend is particularly hot in Asia, which houses many of the top videos on the topic.

As we’ve adapted the way we live and how we do the things we love, online video has emerged as a resource for keeping passions alive. Whether it’s enjoying a virtual choir performance, participating in a Mediterranean cooking class, or connecting virtually for daily prayers, video is helping a world under lockdown feel a little less restricted.

5 ways people are turning to YouTube to cope while social distancing