As millions of people around the world lock themselves up in their homes and avoid contact with people outside in a bid to help contain the coronavirus pandemic, it is quite natural for them to start feeling lonely and bored.
Of course there are chat apps and social media networks that could help beat loneliness and boredom to some extent, but a new feature from Instagram could help ease the "isolation" blues by allowing users to connect over video and share the content they are watching with their friends.
Browse Instagram feed together with friends
The Facebook-owned photo and video sharing social network revealed a new 'co-watching' feature which helps users to turn the lonely exercise of scrolling through their Instagram feed into a fun and social activity by letting them browse their feed together with friends.
Co-watching lets users on a video chat or group video chat browse through public feed posts that the users in the video chat have 'liked' or 'saved,' as well as posts that Instagram recommends. The best part about the feature is that up to six people can co-watch at once.
The feature could let a group friends or family comment, joke, and talk about Instagram's content together instead of just consuming it alone, which was the only option before. It also lets users create chat threads which could lead to longer sessions, and incentivize users to collect a great cache of saved posts to share and encourage more video chats. In short, attracting more people to use the app.
Feature could help combat loneliness
The 'co-watching' feature is an appreciable effort by the company and such features are becoming more important with so many people around the world cut off from family and friends due to to "stay-at-home" orders. It certainly plays a role in helping combat the loneliness that comes with quarantined and social distancing.
The co-watching feature could also be useful well after the quarantines and social distancing end.
Instagram's other coronavirus-related launches
The co-watching feature comes alongside other COVID-19 centric responses from Instagram such as showing a shared Instagram story featuring all your posts that include a new "Stay Home" sticker; adding story stickers to remind people to wash their hands and stickers to promote social distancing; adding coronavirus educational information to the top of results for coronavirus-related searches; donation stickers in more countries so that people can seek contributions and funds for coronavirus-related non-profits.
Fighting coronavirus misinformation
Apart from all this, Instagram, which has more than a billion users globally, has also announced new efforts to promote reliable content related to the ongoing public health emergency and curb the spread of misinformation on its platform.
It is removing all unofficial COVID-19 accounts from its recommendations, as well as virus-related content from the Explore section of the app, if it comes from an unauthorized source.
Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, said the social network isn't seeing a coordinated misinformation effort but is battling "bad advice and unproven remedies." Instagram is directing users to information from the WHO and local health ministries.