May 28, 2020

Harry Styles’ new music video is dedicated to touching, and families and brands are creating ways to overcome the limitations of social distancing.

Culture+ is an editorial series that looks at trending topics and events with an eye toward what they reveal about our shifting culture. The trend this week: Connection. As some states ease restrictions put in place due to COVID-19, we take a look at the ways people and brands fill the void of human contact.

Restrictions may be easing up across the United States, but even with the addition of socially distanced beachgoing and restricted store capacities, many of us are still longing for one thing: touch.

We’ve seen Harry Styles and a suburban family both try to fill that void with a little something to lift our spirits as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Last week, Styles released a summery music video for his hit “Watermelon Sugar,” which was dedicated to touching, and a New Jersey grandmother found an inventive way to hug her grandchildren. Even without touch, Vanity Fair was able to pull off an elegant photoshoot of actress Catherine O’Hara using drones and Airbnb shifted its approach to experiences with the launch of online experiences that provide a new way of connecting.

Here’s a shortlist of content that’s defining the zeitgeist while the culture is in flux:

  1. We’re all longing for touch—and gearing up for a very different summer—right now and Harry Styles has a cure for that: the “Watermelon Sugar” music video—a sensual summer montage that people on the internet have A LOT of feelings about it.
  2. AirBnB has adjusted its approach as social distancing continues by offering online experiences to replace its previous experiences and adventures during travel.
  3. Step-chickens are the latest cult bringing people together on TikTok under one “leader.”
  4. Facebook is upgrading its video chat experience with the launch of Messenger Rooms (complete with a Beatles cover by Lizzo).
  5. Some companies are building virtual replicas of their offices in hopes of bringing back a sense of collaboration.

  6. Vanity Fair got creative with its photoshoot featuring Schitt’s Creek star Catherine O’Hara by using drones… and the resulting images are pretty impressive.
  7. Even celebrities are connecting with fans in a very distanced, round-about way. A young boy in Georgia asked his local FedEx driver to mail Tony Hawk his skateboard. That driver went on social media to try and get Hawk’s attention. It worked. Hawk and the FedEx employee exchanged details, so that he could receive the skateboard AND he even sent the kid one of his own boards.
  8. Exclusive clubs and speakeasies are impossible right now, but a selective online networking app is definitely doable. There’s a new app called Clubhouse where Silicon Valley’s elite venture capitalists can mingle.
  9. Since we could all use a good embrace right now, here’s a loving invention of a “hug shield” by an Illinois family so that grandchildren could get some quality hug time with their grandmother. And, a more colorful approach from a grandmother in New Jersey.
  10. Bonus content: HBO released the full studio version of Kendall’s rap from Succession.

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