Mona, a tech executive in Boston, stopped using Facebook during the pandemic. She felt the posts she was seeing were incongruous with what was happening in the outside world.
“‘Look at me doing my Peloton workout’ or ‘Look at me, I got in shape,’” she mimicked. “Do you realize half a million people died?” said Mona, who asked us not to use her last name so she wouldn’t need permission from her job. Mona added that she thought the situation was especially bad in tech circles, where she sees a lack of “systems thinking.”
“It feels so silly to show happy stories in a pandemic,” Mona said. “Everything feels inappropriate.”
What’s appropriate and not for social media has changed a lot in the past year. One hard truth of the pandemic was that, in order to someday be together safely, we had to be apart in the meantime. For many, this meant that social media has become one of the only ways to be with friends and family, so people have flocked to platforms new (TikTok) and old (Facebook). The new normal, where many more of our daily interactions are mediated by screens, has made us change the way we behave on those platforms, with the messiness and realities of pandemic life crowding out some of social media’s posturing and perfection.
These sites have been a social lifeline as well as a way to get new information about the disease spreading across the globe and upending life as we knew it. Twitter, especially, shone as a real-time news source. The pandemic made social media, whose utility had languished and whose user growth was in decline, suddenly relevant. Some even mused that social media, though still under intense scrutiny for spreading misinformation and general toxicity, was good again. After years of social fragmentation, during which people were less likely to have watched the same shows or even share the same reality, people suddenly had something they could all talk about.
“One thing that brings people together is shared experiences,” Karen North, a clinical professor of digital social media at the University of Southern California, told Recode. “All of a sudden we all have a shared experience.”
Americans spent on average 82 minutes per day on social media in 2020, a seven-minute jump from 2019 and a large upward revision from eMarketer’s original forecast. The media measurement firm previously estimated that time spent on social media would remain the same. But in 2020, concerns about screen time — and “time well spent” — went out the window.
What’s less clear is whether or not people are posting more, but it seems to vary by person and platform. We asked Vox readers and people on our own social feeds to tell us how they use social media differently now compared to before the pandemic and received dozens of thoughtful responses about how that relationship has changed.
Some people told us that while they’re scrolling on social media more, they’re posting less — indeed, what’s there to post about when you’re stuck at home doing the same stuff over and over? Commonly shared milestones like birthdays and weddings were postponed or downsized, and people fear coming off as celebratory when there’s so much suffering, or at least so much judgment.
But some say they’re posting to social media more, as an outlet for pent-up creativity and an anodyne to the lethargy, loneliness, and boredom of isolation.
“The ability to connect via so many different platforms not only helps alleviate feelings of isolation but increases the sense of psychological comfort,” said Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center. “It makes people feel less lonely and less fearful to know they aren’t dealing with this alone.”
Others found that social media helped them feel like they could do something about what was happening in the outside world.
Jordan Updike, a digital marketer in Indianapolis, Indiana, who “went from barely online to very online in a blink,” tried to convince people in his hometown about the realities of the coronavirus.
“They were coming from the foregone conclusion that this isn’t big deal,” said Updike, who had Covid-19 early in the pandemic and is still suffering from lung and heart damage a year later.
He previously treated personal time on social media “not as time well spent,” but that changed during the pandemic.
“I realized even if I have conversations with one person, there were hundreds if not thousands of people observing that conversation,” Updike told Recode. “If it meant 20 people changing their minds or taking this thing seriously, I felt that that was time well spent.”
All of this, of course, was happening amid historic events that also unfolded, at least in part, online. Black Lives Matter organized record turnout to protests against police violence, using social media sites and messaging platforms. By similar means, Capitol rioters plotted their deadly insurrection, egged on by tweets from former President Donald Trump. More recently, people on Reddit’s trading forum WallStreetBets brought about the astronomical rise — and fall — of GameStop and other meme stocks, upending previous conceptions of Wall Street in the process.
Many readers reported extremes in their social media use: periods of constant usage that ultimately led them to feel overwhelmed or anxious, which resulted in cutting off social media usage altogether.
“I found myself feeling insanely guilty and anxious,” Matthew Kiernan, a teacher in Florida who has stopped using Facebook and Instagram, told Recode. “I’m a member of a lot of education pages and groups, and so people seemed to be doing a lot of performative posting about the wonderful things they were doing in their classrooms with their students virtually. That didn’t really resonate with me because I truly felt like even attempting to do some of that was driving me insane.”
Working at a Title I school, Kiernan said, he was more concerned with making sure his students had a good enough broadband connection to access his lessons and with addressing their mental states, which suffered from living in a time with ever-present death.
The urge to delete social media has, ironically, been very evident on social media, where people have been increasingly talking about deleting their accounts, according to social listening company Brandwatch. July 2020 by far had a record number of monthly mentions of deleting social media, according to the company’s data, and rates remain accelerated. Part of that fatigue has to do with the fact that, while a good erstwhile replacement, social media is not as rewarding as face-to-face social interactions, according to Kellan Terry, Brandwatch’s director of communications.
“In the pandemic we’re constantly looking for that social stimulation,” Terry said. “Social media somewhat filled the gap but not wholly.”
Fatigue was also a result of the pandemic lasting just way too long.
“There was a sense that we’d come out the other side,” Lore Oxford, global head of cultural insights at social marketing agency We Are Social, told Recode. “When that didn’t happen, people got overwhelmed.”
And 2020 was a really bad year for misinformation, with fights over politics and lockdown measures and mask-wearing all playing out on social media, and making it an even more toxic environment. Conspiracy theories that proliferated on social media caused real-life harm and turned many people off from it.
But complaints and posts decrying social media aside, overall visits to all major social media sites have continued to grow since the onset of the pandemic, according to data from SimilarWeb, which found visits to major social sites still far above 2019 levels. Even if we don’t like it, we had nothing better to do.
User growth was most dramatic on sites like TikTok and other social video platforms — what eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson refers to as “social entertainment.” She says TikTok’s rise was in part a reaction to the negativity on Facebook, including polarization and rampant misinformation.
According to data from customer experience management software company Sprinklr, nearly three-quarters of mentions of “social media” on social media and news sites in the last year had negative sentiment. In contrast, the majority of mentions of TikTok were positive.
“People were looking for something to entertain themselves and not finding it as easily on platforms like Facebook,” Williamson said, noting that TikTok encourages more levity. “It forms connections in a different way, watching strangers talking openly about their lives.”
Indeed, that openness and authenticity has become one of the key hallmarks of social media in the Covid-19 era.
Less perfection, more real life
The pandemic has generally accelerated existing trends like working from home and shopping online. Another trend that sped up is the reversal, in some cases, of social media as an aspirational place of perfection. Whereas social media posts, especially grid photos on Instagram, have long been criticized for their unrealistic and idealized portrayal of people’s lives, there was less of that during the pandemic. Instead, things got a little sloppier: Houses were a mess, children were home and misbehaved, people didn’t wear makeup. And some of that made it to social media feeds.
“The less polished, more real side is appealing and is going to stay,” eMarketer’s Williamson argued. “The idea of the airbrushed, perfect influencer is probably a thing of the past.”
Nadia Ahmed, a sexual health physician in London who’s alternated overuse with deleting her accounts completely, told Recode, “I’ve also tried to not look at influencer accounts as much. In fact, barely, because it upsets me big time.”
Oxford, from We Are Social, said she’s noticed fewer posts on Instagram’s grid. When people do post there, she says the posts feel more intimate and introspective than they had been.
Many have abstained from posting to not give the impression they were doing something they shouldn’t be — eating in crowded restaurants, hanging out in large groups — during the pandemic. When people do post outside of their homes, it’s often accompanied by a disclaimer that the activity was “Covid safe,” and the fear of being shamed in the comments is almost palpable. Indeed, many readers told Recode they avoided sites like Instagram because posts of people having fun and acting like there wasn’t a pandemic made them anxious and angry.
At the same time, some people have found solace in social platforms’ seeming move to more honesty, with people expressing disappointment and negativity, and complaints about isolation and the state of the world.
“People really want to share thoughts like that when people are similarly afflicted and right now everyone is miserable,” said North, the USC professor, saying that it’s a welcome development for many people who’ve had these thoughts but may have avoided voicing them on social media.
“The pandemic has normalized the negative side of life,” North said.
Social media has also proliferated with posts about people’s deteriorated mental health and sensitivity to others’ problems. Social justice slide shows dominated Instagram Stories, as people sought to take social justice actions online or at least learn about everything from defunding the police to mail-in voting to combating racism.
Inevitably, the platforms and types of content that people took comfort in during the pandemic were ones that felt the most real. People have reacted well to TikTok’s format, in which people add their own imperfect variations to viral videos. It also doesn’t hurt that TikTok videos are relatively short, which many people have found appealing.
Visits to TikTok’s website grew nearly 600 percent on average in 2020 compared to the year before, according to SimilarWeb. Meanwhile, visits to Instagram were up 43 percent, Twitter 36 percent, and 3 percent for Facebook, which is still impressive considering how massively popular the site already was. Average users now spend almost as much time per day on TikTok as they do on the No. 1 social site, Facebook, according to eMarketer data.
Disappearing posts like those pioneered by Snapchat have been particularly useful, since they lower the bar for how good or polished content had to be. Similarly, many people took to live-streaming on various platforms, where their unedited, real-time posts felt immediate and more authentic.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) livestreamed herself playing the popular video game Among Us on Twitch in order to get people to vote. Parenting accounts use Instagram Live to show their followers what living with children in the pandemic is really like. Friends livestream everything from stand-up comedy routines to cooking dinner.
The pandemic also saw people move increasingly to messaging apps or the messaging portion of other social apps, to create a more intimate setting.
“When so much more of our lives are online, we can retreat into slightly more private spaces,” said Oxford. “Facebook was the public square. Groups and chats and Reddit are the bars and the clubs and community centers.”
She noted that US influencers saw a 100 percent growth in Instagram interactions in the week following lockdown orders. Their followers messaged them directly to see how they were holding up and to assuage their own loneliness.
During the pandemic, people have also flocked to niche social media based around common interests or other activities, what some refer to as social+. There people could find more meaningful connections than they could on general social media, with sites like Clubhouse, Nextdoor, and Goodreads all gaining traction.
Viewership of sites like Twitch and Facebook Gaming, where people can watch and communicate with others play video games, nearly doubled during the pandemic. Usership of Fishbrain, a social network for anglers, grew more than 60 percent in the US in 2020, bringing its American user base to 8.5 million.
What comes next on social
Livestreaming and social entertainment sites like TikTok will continue to grow as the pandemic continues, eMarketer predicts. The firm estimates that while time spent on social media might dip a little bit in the coming years, it will remain higher than before the pandemic.
In the meantime, social media has become more embedded in our lives than ever, and the increased reliance we’ve developed in the last year is likely here to stay.
“It’s hard to change a habit,” said Shaka McGlotten, a professor of media studies and anthropology at SUNY Purchase College. Still, McGlotten thinks there’s a chance for change. “I do think that there is going to be a kind of reckoning when we can go outside.”
What’s certain to gradually change is how we behave on social media, as our actions morph to meet our needs. Those who’ve felt like they have a toxic relationship with social media may have the chance to break out of bad habits, says Thomas Roach, a professor of cultural studies at Bryant University who recently wrote a book about intimacy on Grindr. It’s possible to embrace the alienation of being just a box on a screen: Instead of constant branding ourselves as individuals, it can be liberating to be one of the crowd, he said.
“We shouldn’t use social media to reproduce pre-pandemic normality, we should be using it to create a new normal,” Roach said.
As one Recode reader expressed, living through this pandemic could change our relationship with social media for the better.
“Last year, I used social media to keep tabs on how our country was dying,” she wrote. “This year, I use it to look for signs of life.”
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The lack of training in communication skills and its influence on the management of difficult periods was another important finding. Communication in general deteriorated during the pandemic, especially during the initial waves.How does social media help you in your studies in this time of pandemic? ›
Other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, are linked to higher levels of student involvement and information sharing . In addition to supporting student education, Web 2.0 tools can also help individuals overcome communication and writing difficulties. Social media can be used beyond education.Why we should use social media less? ›
Studies show that people who spend a significant amount of time on social media experience increased anxiety and decreased self-esteem. Watching everybody else's milestones and achievements fly through your feed doesn't make you happy for your pals, it makes you unhappy about your own (seeming) lack of accomplishment.How did social media change? ›
Social media has helped many businesses grow and promote itself, and has helped people find a better way to connect and communicate with one another. On the other hand, it's also provided many people with problems involving mental health, emotional insecurities, and waste of time.How has the pandemic personally affected your life? ›
Information overload, rumors and misinformation can make your life feel out of control and make it unclear what to do. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. And mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, can worsen.How communication is affected by media and information? ›
Social media reduced the barriers in communication, making it easier for everyone to express their thoughts to the world. Social media also helps widen the knowledge of an individual. Social media-sourced information is now more handy making everyone involved and active in society.What is the impact of social media on students? ›
It is easy to become addicted, and research shows that students who spend too much time on social media can suffer from poor sleep, eye fatigue, negative body image, depression, anxiety, cyberbullying, and more.What is the impact of social media on the academic performance of the students? ›
Past studies have found that students who spend more time on social media sites are likely to demonstrate poor academic performance. This is because they spend time chatting online and making friends on social media sites instead of reading books.What is the impact of social media on the academic performance of the students on the local universities and colleges? ›
The students using the social media platforms for academic purposes instead of non-academic purposes, were found significantly greater and positive impact of the use of social media in their academic performance compared to their counterparts.What are Negative Impact of social media? ›
Social media harms
However, social media use can also negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure. The risks might be related to how much social media teens use.
|Pros of Social Media||Cons of Social Media|
|People Can Connect Through Social Media||Reduces Face-to-face Communication Skills|
|Good Source of Up-to-Date Information||Fake News|
|Social Media Is Beneficial to Education||People's Addiction to Social Media|
“One is less likely to get FOMO anxiety, too, and leaving social media will allow you to cultivate better relationships with the people around you. It can also let you enjoy the things you have and instead of focusing on what you don't,” boosting your confidence and your overall sense of wellbeing.How do you think social media has changed or is changing the world? ›
These factors have caused social networks to evolve from being a handy means for keeping in touch with friends and family to being used in ways that have a real impact on society. The Influence of Social media is being used in ways that shape politics, business, world culture, education, careers, innovation, and more.How media affect changes in society nowadays *? ›
The media can manipulate, influence, persuade and pressurise society, along with even controlling the world at times in both positive and negative ways; mentally, physically and emotionally.How social media affects our life essay? ›
If the use of social media is not monitored, it can lead to grave consequences. It is harmful because it invades your privacy like never before. The oversharing happening on social media makes children a target for predators and hackers. It also leads to cyberbullying which affects any person significantly.How does pandemic affect your thoughts and feelings about yourself? ›
Worry about your finances
If you're one of the millions who can't go to work, you're worried about your finances. Even if you have a nest egg to rely on, the uncertainty of when you'll get back to work or if your job will still be available are overwhelming stressors that contribute to mental health problems.
Personally, with the lockdown and the occupational problems facing the people in my country, online classes helped me to study efficiently and further help my family during the crisis by making them not worry about missing classes or my safety being endangered while having to travel.How does this pandemic affect your thoughts and feelings about yourself as a student? ›
Removal from their social support system and extracurricular activities at their school can cause students to feel less connected with their friends, organizations, and hobbies. In addition, they are facing uncertainty about their future, their own health, and the health of their friends and loved ones.How has social media changed the way we communicate with each other? ›
Social media networks allow us the opportunity to share opinions with a far wider audience. Another big change that has occurred is that there is now no filter on the way we speak. In the past, unless you spoke to people directly, you had no way to get your message across regardless of your freedom of speech.How does social media affect face to face communication? ›
Speaking to someone face to face allows a person to pick up nonverbal cues — such as smiling, arm crossing and body positioning — that help people communicate. But because social media lacks this face-to-face contact, research has found that people have adapted to compensate when communicating online.
However, multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. Social media may promote negative experiences such as: Inadequacy about your life or appearance.What are the positive and negative effects of social media on students? ›
- Encourage Online Learning:
- Enhances Academic Performance:
- Enhances Creative Element:
- Causes Distraction:
- Impact on Health:
- Reduces learning and research capability:
Motivate Online Learning
With the use of social media platforms in school, the students get motivated and fostered to learn. Educational videos on YouTube, easy access to e-books, online notes, and learning via video calls are major aspects that contribute to educational development.
This is an Expert-Verified Answer
It disseminates data from one region of the world to another. People learned about their rights thanks to the media's impact. People can also use the media to learn how to exercise their rights. The media serves as a conduit between the government and the general public.
Reduced academic performance is one of the most important consequences of social networking overuse for students. The results of a study on medical students showed that students who used social networks and internet more than average had a poor academic achievement and low level of concentration in the classroom .How social media can have a negative impact on body image? ›
Social media can negatively affect body image by over-exposing you to "idealized" body types. While posting selfies may help body image, trying to edit out perceived flaws can be harmful. To reduce harm on social media, unfollow accounts, find a healthy community, and take breaks.How can social media help students improve their academic performance? ›
Lastly, engagement showed a positive impact on students' AP. Thus, this study shows that social media serves as a dynamic tool to expedite the development of OL settings by encouraging collaboration, group discussion, and the exchange of ideas between students that reinforce their learning behavior and performance.What are the effects of using Facebook on students academic performance? ›
In this study, we found that academic distraction is negatively associated with academic achievement. Students with a high-frequency usage of Facebook or the Internet for entertainment per day tended to be more distracted in academic tasks, and had lower GPA.Is social media a major source of distraction for learning students? ›
Social media is a major source of distraction and thus can hinder users from successfully fulfilling certain tasks by tempting them to use social media instead. However, an understanding of why users get distracted by social media is still lacking.Has social media been a positive or negative influence on society? ›
The truth is that social media can also be beneficial for society. It can help individuals connect and deepen their relationships. Social media also encourages students to learn and grow. And it can empower businesses to build their audiences and boost their bottom line.
No – social media is not making us less social:
Due to social media, now we have the opportunity to connect with many people, even if they do not live in our area. Before social media, we could interact with people from either our locality or the places we go.
With people keeping their heads in their phones more than talking face to face, they are neglecting rudimentary social skills. The way people maintain eye contact and posture and the words they use are all affected by using the phone too much.What are the advantages and disadvantages of social media for youth? ›
Social media is a big part of social and creative life for many pre-teens and teenagers. Social media benefits include connection, learning and creativity. Risks include exposure to inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and privacy and data breaches.What are the advantages and disadvantages of online Internet media? ›
- Advantages of Internet. Source of Information. Source of Entertainment. Keep Informed. Online shopping. Communication. ...
- Disadvantages of Internet. A Waste of Time. Not Safe Place for Children. Privacy Exposure. Money Fraud. Virus/Malware. ...
- Surprising Fact's about the Internet:
- FAQs about Internet.
People are leaving traditional social media sites to try something new and something better. The reason behind this mass exodus might vary, but they all have one thing in common: people seek sites that are more social, less combative and offer better privacy plus security.Are people happier without social media? ›
But the harm it's caused to us and our kids for that matter can't be ignored. Study……after study……after study, simply show people are typically happier when they are off social media. Being on social media can cause or amplify our depression, loneliness, anxiety and a wide variety of other not so great feelings.How has Covid 19 impacted the way people communicate and interact with each other? ›
“We have less interaction overall with people outside of the people we live with, and we spend more time on Zoom, Skype and other mediated platforms.” Levine says, health-wise, social distancing is for the best overall; but social isolation is not healthy in the long term.What are some barriers to communication? ›
- Dissatisfaction or Disinterest With One's Job. ...
- Inability to Listen to Others. ...
- Lack of Transparency & Trust. ...
- Communication Styles (when they differ) ...
- Conflicts in the Workplace. ...
- Cultural Differences & Language.
Social media has some damaging effects on communication skills and unfortunately lasting damaging effects when social media is used in excess or obsessively. One, it affects the ways individuals react to emotions, social cues or nonverbal cues, as it erases this important aspect of the basis of communication.What are some ways in which we communicate during the lockdown? ›
Call/Video Calls: Video calling is more popular than ever during lockdown and there is a reason for it. Seeing someone's face when speaking to them makes the exchange feel more natural and engaging. It can also be the preferred method for people less technically able as it is easier to use.
How does media and information affect communication today give your personal experiences as examples? ›
Social media reduced the barriers in communication, making it easier for everyone to express their thoughts to the world. Social media also helps widen the knowledge of an individual. ... Also, the interpersonal communication skills of an individual is being affected in the process.How did Facebook affect or change the way we communicate with other people? ›
Now, people can interact with one another with better responsibility and openness. They can see to the lives of each other and share comments and experiences. In case they find anything wrong happening they can make groups on Facebook and protest against the occurrence.What is the importance of communicating effectively in a community? ›
Communication activities can help people, even those from different social groups within a community, to share information and exchange ideas in a positive and productive fashion.How can we avoid and overcome barriers to effective communication essay? ›
Use of Simple Language: Use of simple and clear words should be emphasized. Use of ambiguous words and jargons should be avoided. Reduction and elimination of noise levels: Noise is the main communication barrier which must be overcome on priority basis.What strategies did you use to avoid the barriers and miscommunication? ›
- checking whether it is a good time and place to communicate with the person.
- being clear and using language that the person understands.
- communicating one thing at a time.
- respecting a person's desire to not communicate.
- checking that the person has understood you correctly.
Speaking to someone face to face allows a person to pick up nonverbal cues — such as smiling, arm crossing and body positioning — that help people communicate. But because social media lacks this face-to-face contact, research has found that people have adapted to compensate when communicating online.What are Negative Impact of social media? ›
Social media harms
However, social media use can also negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure. The risks might be related to how much social media teens use.
the rise of social media causes a decrease of face to face interactions among today 's youth. There are many benefits to communicating through social media versus face to face interactions. Some of the benefits that communicating through social media have it breaks the surface to being nervous to speak to someone.How does this pandemic affect your thoughts and feelings about yourself? ›
Even if you're at home with family, the reality of social isolation can still trigger loneliness, sadness, and anxiety. You may also find that spending all day, every day with your family is stressful and creates challenges, no matter how much you love them.Why is it important to communicate with those around you? ›
Your communication skills help you to understand others—not just their words, but also their tone of voice, and their nonverbal gestures. The format of their written documents provides you with clues about who they are and what their values and priorities may be.
Communication plays a vital role in letting people know about each others feelings, to share experiences and knowledge. Communication plays an important role when knowledge has to be shared among people of a society.