Jul 16, 2020

New accounts are popping up on social media to expose racism, while the Trump administration explores banning one of the most popular social media apps.

Culture+ is an editorial series that looks at trending topics and events with an eye toward what they reveal about our shifting culture. This week, we take at how technology and social media are being used as COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, leaving many people at home, and many industries shuttered.

Social media is a means of connecting now more than ever. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in multiple countries, including the United States, users are tapping apps like TikTok and Instagram to expose instances of racism and raise funds for nonprofits.

Instagram pages “ChangeTheMuseum” and “BlackAt” use the power of social media to urge change in industries and institutions mired in racism debates. More than a dozen Instagram accounts that slap names onto images of seemingly random objects like “What Image Are You” and “What Frog Are You” recently cropped up on the platform, garnering thousands of followers and raising money for The Okra Project and Children of The Night, among other organizations.

Brands are also using TikTok’s enormous influence to reach a new generation of consumers. The clean-beauty brand Kosas tapped into the Stepchickens cult on TikTok to boost its brand recognition. Here’s a look at what’s going on in culture this week:

1. Banning TikTok in America would be harder than President Trump makes it sound. Here’s an explainer.

2. Jason Derulo claims to make more than $75,000 per TikTok video. Let that sink in.

3. Activists are using social media for good. College students are using Instagram to reveal racism on college campuses by sharing their personal encounters via the “BlackAt” account template. The “BlackAt” accounts have spread to other industries, including CrossFit. The Instagram account “Change The Museum” is collecting stories of discrimination in the art world to pressure museums to make changes. The account has more than 20,000 followers.




4. Instagram accounts that slap a name on top of random images are also doing their part to give back to communities. What Image Are You has more than 90,000 followers and donates proceeds raised on its platform to nonprofits. A number of accounts have cropped up over the last week, including What SpongeBob Meme Are You, What Frog You Are, What Harry Styles Are You, and dozens more.

5. Clean beauty brands are using the power of TikTok — and the Stepchickens (a semi-cult that is explained here) — to reach a younger generation of consumers.

6. Could Artificial Intelligence create the perfect fragrance, beloved by all? Maybe not, but data-driven approaches to fragrance creation are on the rise.

7. As COVID-19 cases increase around the world, live events are on hold. A virtual EDM festival that takes place entirely in the game Minecraft was supposed to launch July 9 with more than 950 artists, but was postponed after users encountered difficulties when trying to attend. Despite the bumps, Rave Family Block Fest follows the path of online-only music experiences like Travis Scott’s in-game Fortnite performance, which garnered more than 12 million virtual attendees.

8. Cover letters are becoming a thing of the past, but the trade-off means a Snapchat-esque video might be a candidate’s best bet at landing a job.

9. In the early stages of quarantine, there was athleisure wear and “business on top, pajamas on the bottom.” Now, months into the Covid-19 pandemic across the globe, “slob chic” is the latest at-home, on-video fashion trend.  “Unrepentant sloppiness is the new fashion-forward.”

10. And lastly, Dr. Fauci the fashion model? The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases graced the cover of InStyle magazine’s September issue.

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