Digital Transformation Cooking COVID-19

Reddit cooking and crafts conversations spike in tandem with Covid cases


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

August 30, 2021 | 6 min read

Exclusive data from Reddit suggests that as the Delta variant spreads and breakthrough cases increase, so too are conversations surrounding at-home hobbies such as cooking, arts & crafts and gaming. Is the world preparing to go back into lockdown mode?

Manga drawings and colored pencils on table

As Covid cases rise, Redditors are talking more about cooking, gaming and arts & crafts

Reddit is seeing an influx of discussions surrounding cooking and crafts. At the same time, the support group-like subreddit r/covid19_testimonials saw a 3516% lift in subscribers during the week of August 15-21 – mirroring the acceleration of Covid cases. In the US, Covid-related hospitalizations have reached over 100,000 for the first time since January, according to data released last week by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Burgeoning activity in hobbies-related Reddit communities may suggest that, after a summer of socializing and reconnecting, people may be spending more time at home as the pandemic continues to rear its ugly head. Here’s what you need to know.

Cooking up new conversations

In tandem with spikes in activity on r/covid19_testimonials, as well as conversations related to remote work, has been a growth in hobbies-related conversations on Reddit. In particular, engagement on topics including sports, pop culture and music and food are on the rise. In particular, food and cooking-related tips, hacks and debate abound.

Activity in r/eatcheapandhealthy saw a spike in unique views of 265% on July 21, thanks in part to a popular post on food pairings that require minimal effort. Meanwhile, the super-niche r/grilledcheese spiked by 1,300% on July 20, following a viral post in which one Redditor challenged the legitimacy of the community, since it includes posts about ‘melts’ – à la the internet-beloved ‘is a hot dog a sandwich?’ debate.

In a similar vein, the platform has witnessed a flurry of activity related to the arts. Unique views on the Arts & Crafts interest group as a whole rose by 15% between August 15-21. “We’re definitely seeing at-home hobbies like these continuing to trend upward, along with the desire to talk about it in communities of equally passionate people,” Reddit’s head of partner insights and research Dan Gould tells The Drum.

And Redditors are certainly finding those communities. Unique views on the r/drawing subreddit within the interest group leapt 232% on August 14 when one user posted a picture of a drawing that required some 30 hours of studying and took three nights to complete. Meanwhile, the platform’s Photography interest group saw even greater growth than the Arts & Crafts group during the same period, gaining a 22% increase in unique views, thanks to surges in activity on subreddits including r/colorizedhistory and r/architectureporn.

Cady believes that many of the trends happening on Reddit are likely related to the pandemic and its effects. “[People] want to have something to show for the time we spent away from each other – a new skill, a new hobby or a new look,” he says.

However, there are other factors driving the influx of activity in Reddit’s hobbies-focused communities too, Cady says. “I would call the rise in discussions on arts & crafts on Reddit one of many early signals in the rise of the creator economy. There are many cultural forces encouraging people to consider the role of creativity in their life and career in a way they’ve perhaps never considered before. Reddit is where people connect to become a better version of themselves, rather than try to present the best version of themselves. That makes for an excellent learning environment, particularly for arts & crafts.”

In the midst of a transformation

Still, it’s hard to ignore the outsized role that Covid has played on the way people interact online and the content that drives engagement. Cady believes that these Covid-related trends paint a much larger picture. “My instinct is that some of the changes happening within this Covid window are poised to define market behaviors for the coming years or even decades,” he says. “Every single aspect of our lives is undergoing some kind of transformation. In some cases, that transformation is an acceleration of an evolution that was already long under way, such as digital spaces for work and play. In other cases, that transformation is an adjustment to the future we anticipate, such as increased interest in home gardening and personal health.”

In the world of business, marketing should react accordingly, says Cady. “There has never been a better time to introduce a new product or service to people. People are open to changing their habits and their environments, which presents an enormous opportunity for brands to contribute meaningfully to these changes.”

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