What’s happening to Chinese youth entertainment during the pandemic?

By Fanyi Yang*

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, countries have introduced different measures and policies to prevent people from spreading the virus, including regular hand washing, wearing face masks, maintaining social distance, reducing face-to-face interaction, and so on. These policies and measures brought about by COVID-19 have greatly influenced people’s views and social patterns. With a curiosity about how different levels of prevention measures and policies have affected people’s entertainment activities during the epidemic, I have conducted research aiming to explore the different dimensions of entertainment experienced in China.

Strict epidemic prevention measures have brought the epidemic under good control in China.

In the first two months of the outbreak, China asked the public to abide by hygiene practices, wear face masks, and keep social distance. People’s temperatures were taken in public places and large public gatherings were suspended. It was suggested that entertainment and leisure facilities be shut down to prevent clustering the infection as well. “I think the closure of entertainment venues, including cinemas, bars and restaurants, forced people to reduce crowd activities and direct contact between people. And that is effective to control the epidemic, understandable as well,” says Yufan, a student in China.

Strict policies and measures have brought attention to COVID-19, changed views and attitudes towards entertainment activities, as well as the form and frequency.

Yufan is a 20-year-old college student living in southern China. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, his favorite social entertainment activity was going out with friends to eat or drink once or twice a month.

“The sheer amount of news every day and draconian measures forced me to start paying attention to COVID-19. I went out with my friends less, or even not at all… Entertainment activities have become more important in my life. I stayed at home for a long time because of the outbreak and I had more free time, which was very boring and I needed entertainment activities to pass the time. And that is why I do entertainment activities more frequently.”

The strict policies made Yufan aware of the seriousness of COVID-19. His entertainment activities changed from offline to online, and he spent significantly more time engaging in such pastimes. He played games online with friends and used apps to stream movies. Even though he found that online entertainment was monotonous in comparison to offline activities where he could meet friends face to face, he still avoided going out and chose instead digital entertainment activities.

The gradual easing of policies has increased people’s entertainment activities in physical venues.

During the long duration of the epidemic, policies have gradually become more relaxed and entertainment venues opened again, which objectively increased the opportunities for people to participate in entertainment activities in physical venues.

“Given the choice, I would rather do something offline. I think I would feel better spending time with friends face to face. It would be more fun. So when the entertainment venues opened up again, I started hanging out with my friends again, and there was less activity online and more offline.” ( Yufan )

“Feeling safe” is the key to change entertainment activities during the epidemic.

Yufan believes that strict measures and policies have brought the epidemic well under-controlled in China which makes him feel “safe”. He is willing to “return” to physical venues and participate in offline entertainment activities that are more attractive to him than digital entertainment activities. “In China, entertainment venues check the temperature of individuals at the entrance, ask people to keep their distance and wear masks. These measures make me feel safe,” he said. “Without these measures, I won’t feel safe enough, and I won’t go to physical venues for social events.”

*Fanyi Yang is a Masters in Applied Cultural Analysis program student at Lund University. She currently conducts her research with a collaboration of Square Culture for one of her courses in the program. She researches about the effects of COVID-19 in people’s entertainment lives in both Sweden and China. To get further information about his research, please email sahra@squareculture.se.