The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally altered the normal patterns of life in the world and has brought sweeping changes to the environments in which we conduct day-to-day activities. Due to the implementation of social distancing procedures, policies implementing lockdown and quarantine, and the need for people to wear masks when in public, the ways in which we conduct business, seek entertainment, shop, and even eat food have all adjusted to accommodate for the sake of greater public health and safety. Society has switched, partially due to circumstances necessitating the switch and partially due to the evolution of technology rendering certain ideas or processes obsolete. The internet has taken a controlling interest in our lives and that this influence will only continue to increase.
During the coronavirus pandemic, my use of the internet certainly increased, with remote learning taking up a large portion of my total time spent on the internet. In addition to this, I used the internet for entertainment and to connect with my classmates who would be going to college with me. Throughout my time on the internet during the pandemic, I used a core group of 10 to 15 websites, apps, and services. The most notable of these were Zoom, Blackboard, Gmail, Spotify, and YouTube. In the context of the pandemic and all the uncertainty that it represents, these services represent the best alternative or substitute for the pre-COVID world. Zoom is a videoconferencing app/service, which allows the user to attend conference calls for work or education, as well as for casual meetings. This is a substitute for physical meetings at an office, in a classroom, or between friends or colleagues as a method for social interaction. Blackboard is an educational tech company providing a learning management service for university. Although this does not really act as a substitute, Blackboard (and any LMS in general) has become indispensable for both educators and students as a centralized location for coursework and submissions lightens the load on both parties. Email services have always been vital as a means of communication, but I have used emails far more often and for longer periods of time during the pandemic. Spotify and YouTube represent more entertainment and lifestyle-focused services (although YouTube has its share of work and educational content).
Zoom has represented itself to consumers as “the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars” (taken directly from the Zoom official website), showing that it intends to use the publicity gained from being the most recognized conferencing service during the pandemic and use it as a marketing strategy. Blackboard represents itself as a reliable and experienced LMS. Most email services have not really changed their advertisements due to the pandemic, as they are and will remain integral parts of the business and educational infrastructure. Spotify and YouTube also do not have the need to represent themselves differently, as the usage of each service would increase due to the pandemic. YouTube’s videos have been saturated with ads regarding the pandemic, but YouTube itself has not represented itself differently. Language associated with Zoom is usually appreciative of the service, but also frustrated or mocking in its tone at times, either due to Zoom being associated with work, meetings, technical issues, or general annoyance at the service. Language directed towards Blackboard is usually neutral but sometimes negative due to the platform being convoluted at times. Language directed towards Gmail is usually positive due to its utility in the world. Language and tone directed towards Spotify and YouTube are also generally positive; in fact, these two services have become increasingly popular and important during the pandemic. In terms of my personal opinions, Spotify and YouTube make me feel entertained and give me a diversion from work, Blackboard gives me a feeling of slight anxiety as it reminds me of the work I need to complete, and Gmail gives me a sense of being connected to the world. Zoom by itself does not make me feel anything because you can be involved in a variety of activities on Zoom with varying feelings and purposes.
Another service which has gained increasing popularity due to the pandemic (despite me not including it in my frequently used services list) is DoorDash. DoorDash is an on-demand food delivery service which delivers food from restaurants to consumers in the area using an Uber-style system. “Dashers”, the independent contractors, similar to Uber drivers, pick pre-ordered food up from restaurants and deliver the food to the customers. This model of food delivery through a third party has become increasingly popular from the mid-2010s but has seen a massive boost in recognition since the start of the pandemic. The webpage for DoorDash is sleek and modern, yet colorful, evoking a sense of inclusion, personalization, and community. In addition to this, when using the query DoorDash on a search engine, the result will say “Safety is of Utmost Importance”. This is intended to generate a feeling of safety, security, and acceptance; the safety and security coming from a contactless delivery solution in the pandemic as well as taking preventative measures to ensure that no disease is spread, and the acceptance coming from including numerous varied types of cuisine as well as ensuring that each person can find the type of food that they are searching for. The orange colors could also be an attempt to subliminally influence consumers to become hungrier (orange is scientifically proven to increase hunger and appetite). The company attempts to represent itself as a safe, welcoming, and simple solution to how to eat food from a restaurant during the pandemic, with a warm tone as well as statistics about donations of food which DoorDash’s site proudly state that it participates actively in. DoorDash’s site is not targeted at one group of people, but to multiple; from customers to prospective dashers to people looking into the health and safety, DoorDash represents itself as a company willing to rise and hold out against the pandemic. For others, DoorDash represents one alternative to cooking at home or takeout which might prove to be safer and more efficient than either option. As its context is the middle of a pandemic, DoorDash represents a safe and reliable method of food delivery and an increasingly useful resource for its users. In a period of time where many services are on hold, DoorDash represents that one can still enjoy food and drinks from the same restaurants that they went to before the pandemic; more concisely, it represents itself as something that can deliver comfort and consistency in an ever-changing world. To conclude, the ability of DoorDash to represent itself and change from just a service to something which evokes an image of consistency and a security shows how fundamentally altered our society can be as well as how perceptions can be changed.
(Image Source: DoorDash)