The effects of social media during COVID-19

Statistics reveal that on average 3.8 billion people in the world use social media (Dean, 2020). Social media has become an outlet for individuals to start and maintain connections with others. At the tip of our fingers, we are able to be present with the world and all the people in it. Especially during COVID-19, when physically meeting with others may be limited, people have leaned onto social media in order to lessen the feelings of isolation. However, although social media has its benefits, there are still negative effects that should not be overlooked. 

Anxiety

One major effect of social media is its influence on mental health. Studies report that there is an increased rate of anxiety among users of social media during this time (Ellwood, 2020). As our world continues to face a lot of turmoil and uncertainty, these platforms have the potential to induce anxiety with all the information it contains. If we constantly absorb the difficult news found on social media, we absentmindedly become overwhelmed. For example, many people read numerous articles, count statistics or search COVID-19 symptoms, which can lead to fear and panic over the pandemic. Research also provides evidence that individuals who utilize social media to obtain information on COVID-19 have higher levels of anxiety and depression (Bendau et al., 2020). 

Emotional Needs

According to Ao (2020), “46% to 51% of American adults reported using social media more often than before the pandemic”. Individuals have turned to social media in order to be in contact with friends and family during quarantine. However, social media does not provide the same energy compared to sharing face-to-face interaction. Online engagements can also have passive communication and shallow responses that do not convey one’s true emotions (Plumridge, 2020). Despite being connected online, individuals may actually feel lonely due to the lack of intentional conversations on these platforms. Our emotional needs are essentially not being fulfilled through sole reliance on social media interaction.

Comparison 

Being in quarantine has allowed individuals to log on social media more frequently and keep up to date on the lives of others. Consequently, this can lead to thought patterns of comparison. Looking at different posts may compel individuals to measure up to a certain standard in appearance and lifestyle. A study conducted on the link between envy and social media also found that, “It becomes a vicious cycle: feeling jealous can make a person want to make his or her own life look better, and post jealousy-inducing posts of their own, in an endless circle of one-upping and feeling jealous” (Walton, 2017). Social media can ultimately enable individuals to perceive life as a competition and negatively influence self-esteem.

Personally, I still believe in the good social media brings about and I continue to utilise it from time to time. However, I am also learning to acknowledge the negative effects and how to navigate through it. Here are a few tips that have helped keep me grounded. I hope it provides you with some insight as well! 

Limit your usage

Many devices have a screen time feature that locks users from social media after spending a certain amount of time. This can help keep individuals accountable and conscious of social media usage. 

Follow pages that bring joy

Rather than continuously absorbing hard news or negative messages, it may be beneficial to follow pages that offer words of encouragement. Positive posts can provide more hope and elevate one’s mood. 

Video Calls

In order to maintain interaction with others, it could be more meaningful to share face-to-face conversations. Video calls through FaceTime or Zoom have become a great way to catch up with friends and family during this time since in-person activities are limited. 

Alternatives to social media

Instead of constantly being on social media, alternative activities could be baking, reading, watching movies, journaling, etc. This time in quarantine could also be an opportunity to learn something new. 

Self-awareness

Take some time to reflect if social media is influencing your perception of yourself and if needed it is okay to go offline. Focus on giving yourself positive affirmations on who you are and where you are in this current season of life. 

Author: Rachel Garcia 

References

Ao, B. (2020). Excessive social media use linked to depression during pandemic. Retrieved from 

https://www.post-gazette.com/life/lifestyle/2020/10/07/Excessive-social-media-use-depre

ssion-COVID-19-Penn-State-study/stories/202010070017

Bendau, A., Petzold, M. B., Pyrkosch, L., Mascarell Maricic, L., Betzler, F., Rogoll, J., Große, J., 

Ströhle, A., & Plag, J. (2020). Associations between COVID-19 related media consumption and symptoms of anxiety, depression and COVID-19 related fear in the general population in Germany. European archives of psychiatry and clinical neuroscience, 1–9. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-020-01171-6

Dean, B. (2020). How Many People Use Social Media in 2020? (65+ Statistics). Retrieved from 

https://backlinko.com/social-media-users

Ellwood, B. (2020). New psychology research links social media exposure during the 

coronavirus pandemic to increased anxiety. Retrieved from 

https://www.psypost.org/2020/04/social-media-exposure-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic-is-linked-to-increased-anxiety-56633

Plumridge, N. (2020). Communication: Online vs. Face-to-Face Interactions. Retrieved from 

Walton, A. (2017). 6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health. Retrieved from 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/?sh=5de88c072e5a

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