How One Livestream Changed My Quarantine Experience

Read this reflective narrative about live streaming concerts.

Lillian was ready for a somber St. Patrick’s Day — the pandemic had forced us into social distancing, and she was missing the pub with her friends. Then she discovered that one of her favorite Irish bands, Scythian, was holding their St. Patrick’s Day concert via livestream. This is what happened when she tuned in.

From behind the steering wheel, my eyes scanned the place I’ve called home for 10 years but now felt like a bad Black Mirror episode. Storefronts with “COVID-19” notices plastered on the windows, empty streets during rush hour, people wearing medical masks — I could almost hear the Twilight Zone theme song playing. Instead, the radio talk show host rattled on about the pandemic that’s changed our world: No-one will be kissing the Irish today, but we have a Dropkick Murphys tune for your St. Patrick’s Day quarantine!” 

I pulled up to the only sign of civilization — the local grocery store. The parking lot was packed like the day before Thanksgiving. Wet wipes scattered the entrance way floor. Grim-faced people pushed carts filled to the brim with Cap’n Crunch, canned soups, and frozen pizzas. A voice warned us on intercom between soft rock ballads, “Please stay six feet apart.”

I eventually found the item I was looking for: Irish soda bread. I recalled previous St. Patrick’s Days spent at pubs with friends. I figured my St. Patrick’s Day excitement would stop at the raisined loaf in my hand. 

Later that evening (and in between bread slices) a notification popped up on my phone: Scythian is live. Scythian is a band known for their Irish folk-rock music. It seemed fitting to tune in, so I tapped the screen and the band members popped up. They cheerily greeted the growing number of viewers, but a somberness hid behind their smiles as they announced their show cancelations. But instead of putting away their instruments, they declared that their show would be going digital — tonight!

They immediately jumped into their cheery songs — heart emojis floated up the screen as listeners reacted. I kept the livestream going on my phone because I couldn’t peel myself away from the infectious jigs. The hours started to tick by without notice. 

In between songs, the band explained that they were in the final push for funding for their newest album. They had 11 days left to raise $5,000 and reach their goal of $35,000. During their set, they refreshed their fundraising page. Their faces blossomed with shock as they looked at each other, mouths gaping. The donations were pouring in. In an instant, the entire livestream experience shifted. Hope lit up their eyes like a pilot light igniting a furnace and a newfound excitement began to energize their performance. Every time they refreshed the fundraising page, another thousand rolled in. They jumped and yelled and hugged each other in joyful disbelief. More hearts floated up the screen. 

Hundreds of miles away, behind the glowing rectangular screen of my iPhone, I was on the edge of my seat. My heart was lighter, my spirits lifted — somehow, their joy became my joy. The fear that had been resting on my shoulders since my apocalyptic grocery store run was lessened. 

The band bubbled with gratitude, visibly relieved and humbled by what was happening. As listeners continued to dig into their own pockets despite the sudden economic recession, I realized something: We’re gonna be okay. If hundreds of people can come together during such a scary time and still practice charity — we’ll all come out of this. Humanity prevails, no matter the circumstance. 

The night wound down and the band members expressed their heartfelt thanks. They signed off with bewildered smiles. They had raised more than $10,000, blowing past their initial goal. As I turned off my phone, I forgot about coronavirus entirely for a moment. But when I remembered, I didn’t feel the same dread as before. 

The livestream allowed for a uniquely intimate experience that no-one saw coming. Social media — commonly regarded as anti-social — united and uplifted an entire community of people during a time of anxiety and fear. The band’s newfound hope became my newfound hope. A hope that’s turned into trust as we face an uncertain future. 

Since this unique livestream, I’ve tuned into other livestreams daily and found the same sense of community and comfort. Whether it’s watching Mass, a talk, someone’s skincare routine, or simply hanging out with my favorite Instagrammer in real-time, livestreams have become a lifeline during our world’s quarantine experience. Our digital age has lessened the isolation of this pandemic and even allowed us to thrive socially. It’s made me and millions of other people realize that we’re not alone, after all. 

As I sit in my bedroom again, I’m not sure how long we’ll be ordered to distance ourselves from one another. But if there’s one thing I learned from these livestreams (which feel more like real social gatherings during this pandemic), it’s that the human spirit is resilient. We won’t just get through this, we have the capacity to come out on the other side with a better sense of what’s important. 

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