People are turning to digital platforms to stay connected 

By Braden Kutzner

Students are finding new ways to spend their time at home since the city entered its second lockdown Nov. 12. Some are using digital hobbies to stay busy and connected.

Mackenzie Oakman, a second-year Digital Media Design student at RRC, has already planned out his time at home.

“I want to use the time to refine my skills for career advancement,” said Oakman. “I’m focusing on ZBrush, a digital sculpting program, to improve my portfolio works.”

Oakman is one of many Winnipeggers turning to technology for entertainment.

Canadian tech store Memory Express has seen a steady increase in customer traffic and sales since March.

Winnipeg’s Memory Express location has seen an increase in customer traffic and sales because of COVID-19./BRADEN KUTZNER

“There is only so much you can do at home. People have been looking to computers as a way to fill that time,” said Ayden McPhail, store manager at Winnipeg’s Memory Express location. “We’ve been seeing more sales of everything from parts to prebuilt computers lately.”

Video and audio-conferencing programs have also expanded their reach. Applications such as Zoom, Houseparty and Discord have all seen significant daily download spikes. 

Zoom saw a surge of more than two million downloads between February and March. 

Discord, a popular group-chatting program used mostly by gamers, also doubled its downloads in just over a month this spring.

“My friends and I will sit in a Discord call and just hang out in there. People will join and just see what everyone is up to,” Oakman said. 

These types of programs are crucial for students to connect with family and friends when gathering restrictions are in effect.

“Depending on how long COVID restrictions are in place, I think we could see a very high shift in societal norms trending towards connectivity this way,” Oakman said.

Lockdown hobbies may even affect how people gather long after restrictions are lifted.