People are also finding a similar escape in a Facebook group called: “A Group Where We All Pretend to Be Ants in a Colony,” which currently has nearly 2 million members and “A Group Where We All Pretend to Be Farmers and Cows,” has more than 60,000 members.
James Flemming, the “Farmers and Cows” page moderator told the Newsroom that millennials and the generations after them formed their identities alongside the internet and this group provides a simple spin on what version of yourself appears online.
“We can project our true selves and our true values online better than we can to others in real life, especially family, who many kids feel the need to hide parts of their ‘selves’ from. This is a simple spin on that idea: on the internet, no one knows who you are,” Flemming says. “It’s easy and fun to switch roles and pretend to be someone you’re not, or engage in ways different than you normally would. Role playing online has always been a huge hobby, this just kind of mainstreamed the platform.”
Farming and animals are also the main theme in the game Animal Crossing for Nintendo Switch, which dominated the cultural conversation in the weeks following the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. This simple game, where users occupy avatars and complete everyday activities like foraging for fruit, fishing, and creating and decorating a home. The game follows in the footsteps of The Sims, which also allowed people to do seemingly common activities but through a screen.
Saltz says this form of escapism and down-to-earth activity is just another expression of what’s missing in many people’s lives right now.
“There's going to be a desire for adventure within, but there's also a desire for normalcy, which we don't have now,” she says. “And maybe that’s being an animal doing normal everyday normal things, that doesn't surprise me either because there is a desire for return to normal, but it's not really possible at the moment.”
As some countries begin to reopen, including parts of the U.S., the question remains as to how life will look once there’s a vaccine and a safe way to experience life as many of us once knew. Will we continue to live our lives through an LCD screen? Or, will we ditch the smartphone faster than before as hugs and parties become a mainstay once again?
Additional reporting by Brooke Sufrin.