Is the age of digital entertainment coming?

By Fanyi Yang*

During the COVID-19 outbreak, the entertainment habits of individuals across different regions varied due to different policies. Behind these individual differences, however, we can find some commonalities in entertainment life. This article will discuss the possibilities of digital entertainment in the pandemic through my interviews with two people living in Sweden and two people living in China.

People are actively looking for alternatives to their original entertainment activities and try to adapt their entertainment activities to the current pandemic situation.

During the pandemic, due to the restrictions of laws and regulations, many offline entertainment activities with large groups could not be continued. People began to find reasonable alternatives for entertainment such as small-scale activities with friends at home or digital entertainment on the Internet.

“Instead of visiting pubs as often as before, I watch more series at home and sing with my choir more often. Instead of dancing at a club, I dance with my closest friends at home in the living room.”(Ann, 28, Sweden)

“As the policy becomes stricter and I can’t go out, I do online entertainment at home. My friends around me also switch to online entertainment. We play games and watch movies online.”(Zhijian, 21, China)

The emerging online digital entertainment activities are recognized, but they could not replace the offline traditional entertainment industry.

When it comes to their views on digital entertainment activities, most interviewees hold a positive attitude. Ann (28, Sweden) shared an experience of watching a band live on YouTube at home with her friend. She thought it was cool and would attend more of these events in the future. These digital activities fulfill a function; creative people find new ways to perform their music, their acting, their art. Digitization is not a new form, but one that can be considered necessary by creators today. From the perspective of consumers, digital entertainment activities also provide more diversified choices for their entertainment life. Zhijian (21, China) mentioned that the Internet provides him with more choices, and he can actively choose the videos or channels he is interested in to watch.

However, can these digital forms of entertainment replace traditional offline activities? Eric (32, Sweden) thinks that activities that should be carried out offline are not so interesting when they have to be carried out online because of the pandemic. He thinks the feeling is completely different, and that sensation is not feasible for him. Ann (28, Sweden) said of the ‘live’ band: “I think it’s good that a lot of the entertainment can be broadcast on the internet, even if it does not give the same feeling as if you had been there.”

Interviewees mentioned that although some activities can be carried out online, offline activities always have a different feeling, and it is this “feeling” that makes them more inclined to pursue offline entertainment activities. Yufan (20, China) and Zhijian (21, China) showed to have similar ideas. Even with real-time video technology, offline face-to-face contact makes people feel more real, and they can have a better perception of the language, mood and atmosphere of the people they interact with so that they can get along better.

“I’m a social being and want to meet real people. Online is just a lesser substitute.” (Eric, 32, Sweden) And Ann also said: “The most important thing for me is probably to do things with the people I like.” For these interviewees, even though they have their own definition of entertainment, the core is “human”. They pay more attention to interaction with people. Even if there is a way to entertain themselves alone, they prefer to interact with others. They pay more attention to a social function in entertaining activities, which is an important part of their social life.

Online digital entertainment may have an impact on the offline traditional entertainment industry, but it will not completely replace it. Digital entertainment activities will gradually become a part of people’s social life, and it is a viable choice for both consumers and producers.

*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.