StMU Research Scholars

The Impact of Social Media During COVID-19

In today’s society, the majority of people are connected to the online world in some way or another. This gives us the ability to stay connected to world news as well as with our friends and family. In the past 18 months we have seen a significant increase in users and time spent online mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The average time U.S users spent on social media in 2020 was 65 minutes daily, compared to 54 minutes and 56 minutes from the years prior. 1 With Government mandates and restrictions applied, this has left some people jobless, stuck at home, and unable to socialize with other people. For some people the social isolation during the pandemic has left them feeling isolated from the outside world. This has taken a toll on their mental health and unhealthy behavior. This can include not getting enough rest at night, not eating a balanced diet, and much more. The pandemic lockdown was effective in keeping infection rates down. However, the negative affect was that this left people feeling alone with their mental struggles and unable to properly make the changes they needed to help improve their mental health. Many people turned to social media apps to stay updated with the ongoing and constantly changing news regarding COVID-19. A study conducted In September 2020 shows that 53 percent of people get their news from social media. This shows a jump from the previous year of only 42 percent. 2 For most people it is easier to check your phone for the latest news rather than watch a TV broadcast. Apps like Tik Tok, Pinterest, Reddit, and Facebook all showed significant growth in users as well has usage during 2020. People used these apps to stay in contact with their friends and family and to distract themselves from the ongoing rise of the COVID-19 infection rate numbers. The Social Media app Tik Tok showed the most growth in 2020. In the United States, study shows an 85 percent increase in users during 2020. Pinterest and Reddit showing a 32 percent and 30 percent growth of monthly users. 3

Social media platforms widely used               during COVID-19. Courtesy of                          Creativecommons.org

Alongside the growth in social media apps during the pandemic, TV consumption grew as well. Binge watching of TV and video entertainment provided people with a much-needed break from the constant COVID-19 updates, political news, and day to day stress. Data recorded from Nielsen during 2020 showed a huge spike in consumption of TV in Americans. To be specific, the data indicates that viewers were watching old, familiar favorites.  Nielsen is a global leader in audience insights, data and analytics. Measuring behavior across platforms and channels to see what audiences love most. This  study revealed that people were found to be visiting shows or movies they have a pre-established connection with. The trend of escapist content played a major role in what viewers were consuming. This sense of familiarity and casual watching is what most viewers searched for. Shows like “The Office” racked up 10 million viewers over the span of 2020. Americans watched the equivalent of 100,000 years’ worth of the “The Office” during the past year. Shows like “Grey’s Anatomy”, and “Criminal Minds” both with over 35 million minutes viewed between the two. The trend of Co-Viewing where multiple people in different locations watch the same content together played a major role in creating a sense of community during their isolation. 4

Because of the new emergence of COVID-19, Scientists are only beginning to understand the role of social media on user’s health. Results indicate a link between a higher use of social media and an increased chance of poor mental health behaviors on its users. Furthermore, researchers suggest that the constant exposure to reports regarding rising Covid-19 infection rates and posts can play a huge role in depression symptoms in some individuals. 5 While social media keeps people connected to family and friends due to the social distancing mandates that have been pushed out, this has increased the usage in individuals and has amplified anxiety within them. The main focus of these apps is supposed to enhance our ability to stay connected with other people. However, this can sometimes have an opposite effect, it can leave us with the fear of missing out or loneliness in some situations.

Mental health is a growing concern in our                   community. Courtesy of Pixabay.

Because of this it has been found that psychosocial expressions have increased online during the pandemic. This means that more individuals whether negative or positive are expressing what they are dealing with and going through. This is in the long run can indeed help people by letting them know they are not alone with their struggles. 6 With news on the rise suggesting that social media impacts their user’s mental health, some social media apps have decided to capitalize on this and implement some positive            changes on their platform. In September 2021, Tiktok added resources on their app that gives users ways to seek out suicide prevention information. Making it easily accessible for their audience to find help maybe they once thought was not easily available to them. This update includes suicide prevention hotlines, localized resources, and implementing strict guidelines not allowing self-harm related content. 7 This update was implemented after Tiktok did a survey of 10,000 teens, parents, and teachers about their experiences on their app. The data revealed that 46% percent of users wanted more information and help regarding mental health.

Call outs for changes in major social media                 platforms. Courtesy by Pixabay.

With social media administrators recognizing their impacts on their users and making changes to their platforms to help their users, this shows the people have a voice and are being heard. Through this past year and a half of on-going challenges with the coronavirus and the hardship associated with it, there are some positives to make out of this, that we are not alone in our day to day struggles. This leaves the question, what’s next? What else can be done? An idea could be that social media apps can set a news feed limit and remind you how long you have been scrolling. Images are posted daily that have been altered to deceive their audience of something that isn’t true. Social media  apps can step in the way of this and label images that have been altered. Research shows that taking less time on social media is helpful in increasing mental health. A study done on 143 undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania were assigned to limit their social media usage to just 10 minutes a day for three weeks. The results showed that the group showed significant decrease in anxiety and fear of missing out. The students felt detached from what was going on in their friends’ lives. By limiting their social media usage this left them unable to check 24/7 what was going on. 8 This can be helpful to prevent users from feeling negatively about themselves due to unreachable expectations. It is important we continue to learn and practice healthy behaviors both physically and mentally. By doing so we can make sure we are taking the right steps forward. There are apps available to try for free that can help reduce stress and anxiety. The website Calm offers different ways to help increase mental health. They offer ways to help improve focus, improve sleep quality, and self-improvement. Unwind Anxiety can help uncover what triggers your anxiety and how to identify your anxiety habits. It also provides helpful ways to calm yourself if you are feeling stressed. A helpful tip can also be to set a limit on your phone to remind you to take a break from the screen. Taking a step back and not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow but being in that present moment. That is where you want to be.

It is okay to reach out for help. Courtesy of         Pixabay.

;

 

 

 

 

Sources:

9 https://www.statista.com/topics/7863/social-media-use-during-coronavirus-covid-19-worldwide.

10 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-has-social-media-affected-mental-health-during-the-pandemic.

11 https://globalizationandhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12992-020-00654-4.

12 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7690250.

13 https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/14/tiktok-unveils-mental-health-features-as-instagram-comes-under-fire.html.

  1. Social Media use during COVID-19 worldwide – statistics and facts, Statista Research Department, May 19, 2021.
  2. Drake, Kimberly. “How has Social Media affected Mental Health during the pandemic,” Medical News today, October 6, 2021.
  3. Social Media Platforms growth of MAU worldwide 2019-2021, Statista Research Department, March 8, 2021.
  4. Nielsen Data Shows That People Working From Home Are Watching, NCTA- The Internet & Television Association, March 29, 2021
  5. McDonnell, Dean. “Mental Health consequences of Covid-19 media coverage: the need for effective crisis communication practices.” Globalization and Health, January 5, 2021.
  6. Eysenbach, Gunther. “Psychosocial Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic: Large-scale Quasi-Experimental Study on Social Media”. Journal of Medical Internet Research, November 24, 2020.
  7. Rodriguez, Salvador. Suicide & Self harm on Tiktok. CNBC, September 14, 2021.
  8. Hunt, Melissa, Marx, Rachel, Limiting Social Media decreases Loneliness and Depression, Guilford Press Periodicals, December 2018.
  9. “Social Media use during COVID-19 worldwide – statistics and facts”, Statista Research Department, May 19, 2021.
  10. Drake, Kimberly. “How has Social Media affected Mental Health during the pandemic”, Medical News today, October 6, 2021.
  11. McDonnell, Dean. “Mental Health consequences of Covid-19 media coverage: the need for effective crisis communication practices.” Globalization and Health, January 5, 2021.
  12. Eysenbach, Gunther. “Psychosocial Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic: Large-scale Quasi-Experimental Study on Social Media”. Jorunal of Medical Internet Research, November 24, 2020.
  13. Rodriguez, Salvador. Suicide & Self harm on Tik Tok. CNBC, September 14, 2021.

Tags from the story

26 Responses

  1. Awesome article Joe and very well written, although we often hear of the effects COVID-19 had on the population we don’t always get to see just how much it changed the world and us as people, and the data you provided allows us to see just that. As someone who wants to begin using social media less, seeing a study done on it and it having a positive effect is very reassuring that cutting down on time spent on social media is beneficial and should be done by everyone.

  2. Congratulations on your nomination! I found this article to be very interesting. I would have never considered that the pandemic would have played a large part in the rise of social media activity. I agree with how social media had a major impact on society during the pandemic and as a result took a turn in affecting mental health. I believe this topic is not talked about often only briefly. I enjoyed reading your article and found your article very informative. Great article!

  3. Very interesting article Joe. I agree with everything you covered on how the pandemic affected people and their social skills. People turned to social media during times of quarantine to keep in contact with family and friends but also to watch the latest news and updates on COVID-19. Congratulations Joe on your nomination.

  4. Congratulations on your nomination! When you look back at it, social media activity did rise during the last 18 months. This was in large part due to the pandemic. I enjoyed the commentary on how social media affected our mental health. This led to a very interesting read.

  5. Congratulations on your nomination for communication studies. I do agree that social media had a huge impact on society during the pandemic. Unfortunately various of the activities that we did during the pandemic was online because it was our only way of communicating other people’s opinions on how to greater impact on our lives than usual. this was a very informative article thank you so much.

  6. First of all I want to say congratulations on your article being nominated for an award. I completely agree with you on how social media kept us sane during the pandemic. It was our only source of contact with our friends and families. I especially got all the news from what was going on in the world by using social media. But I also agree with how social media took a toll on our mental health. Again congratulations on your article being nominated for an award. Your article was very informative and interesting to read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.