How Pittsburghers Online Can Help Fight Cabin Fever

YouTubers and TedTalkers offer company while you’re practicing social distancing.


Phrases like “self-quarantine” and “social distancing” are everywhere as COVID-19 spreads.  The safety measures are vital to follow for public and personal health, but leave people separated from each other and their routines. 

Sports events, theater performances, movies and more are canceled or postponed, and while there’s plenty of room for disappointment, there’s also room for other activities to fill the time. Before turning on the same Netflix and Hulu shows you’ve seen enough times to quote, here’s some virtual entertainment with local roots to get you through your cabin fever.

Cooking and baking at home will no doubt become more popular in the coming weeks, and Jessica Merchant’s YouTube channel can help you discover new twists to classic recipes. Merchant also runs a blog, How Sweet Eats, where she posts recipes to complement her newer videos, which show highlights of the cooking process accompanied by cheerful music. If you want the company of another cook in the kitchen, dig into Merchant’s older videos, where she talks you through the cooking process with an encouraging smile.

While a video can’t fully capture the experience of standing in a crowded audience, Folk The System’s YouTube channel offers videos of live music performances in Pittsburgh. The small-audience folk concerts have enough energy to keep your head bopping and your knee bouncing; if you keep an eye out, people passing by in the background might give you a wave.

For less traditional entertainment, Weird Paul’s YouTube channel offers an eclectic collection of vlogs, music and ’80s nostalgia. Weird Paul has been vlogging for more than 30 years, and his videos are (as advertised) weird, but they’re an interesting break from the polished, perfected aesthetics of today’s wave of influencers and vloggers.

Another local YouTuber is Pittsburgh Dad, an online sitcom geared toward Yinzer humor. The shorts cover sports reactions, family holiday shenanigans, blue collar dads around the neighborhood and more. With videos stretching back to 2011, there’s plenty of content to keep you entertained.

There are also several TedTalkers with Pittsburgh roots if you’re looking for food for thought from the comfort of your couch. Dr. Wendy Troxel, an adjunct professor of psychiatry and psychology at Pitt, spoke at TedxManahattanBeach in November 2016 about how school starting times deprive teenagers of sleep. While schools are closed right now, Troxel’s talk can help get you thinking about improving life after the pandemic.

CMU professor Alan Russell’s TedTalk is another chance to speculate about improvements yet to come, this time in the field of medicine. The most current news is centered on the virus, but Russell’s 2006 talk explores the potential of regenerative medicine and expanding possible treatments for disease, injury and congenital defects. 

For a story about hope and rebuilding, check out Pittsburgh-native Bill Strickland’s 2002 TedTalk on growing up in Pittsburgh and creating connections with people who supported him and helped him support others through music and art. Soothing piano music plays in the background, and Strickland’s comforting voice gives comfort and hope to listeners who need it.

Categories: The 412