[Article from Evelyn James]

It is safe to say that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed our relationship with the internet forever. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people working from home, musicians, and other artists promoting their work through live online concerts and family quizzes via web conferencing platforms, for example.

We have also seen many people turning to social media as an alternative to the more conventional forms of socialising during the lockdown and it will be interesting to see whether these new habits stick as the world begins to come out of its lockdown hibernation.

Like many things in life, there are a lot of positives to be gained from social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but there are also some downsides. It is important to be able to understand the positives and negatives of social media to be able to get the most out of it without it having a detrimental effect.

With this in mind, here are some of the best and worst uses that we are seeing of social media as we begin to come out of lockdown:

👍 Strengthening communities

Social media has allowed some people to strengthen their local communities. In the absence of being able to physically meet up and hold events, we have seen many local communities join up online. Submitting photos of prize turnips for online judging or virtual talks about local history has become the norm now and a valuable resource for many people.

This has been especially valuable for older people as their local communities often offer a great degree of support and company – something that has been particularly valuable during the lockdown.

👎 More Uninterrupted Screen Time

Social media has been set up to keep us wanting more. A quick look on Facebook can suddenly turn into an hour of scrolling, and this continuous screen time not only wastes time but is also not good for your health.

Arctic Shores, psychometrics experts suggest that “many of us now get through more than seven hours (!) of unbroken daily screen time, and the unnatural blue light that screens emit can lead to headaches, blurred vision, and the imaginatively-named computer vision syndrome.”

👍 Helpful for Communication

Social media has also been designed to help make communication easier, stream-line, and effortless. It has meant that people have been able to chat, share pictures, and play games together during the lockdown. Social media has also been a useful tool for businesses and governments to communicate information regarding the virus – which has been especially useful as the lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Social media has also been very useful to allow friends and families to chat in the absence of face to face meetings.

👎 Mental Health Issues

Mental health problems have already been prevalent during the time of the pandemic but it is true to say that social media can play a strong role in worsening their effects. The rolling 24/7 news can badly affect us, especially if we are already feeling anxious about certain situations. The seemingly perfect – and productive – lives of friends and family are not only almost certainly a misrepresentation of reality, but also unhelpful to everyone’s mental health.

👍 Meeting Like-Minded People

It is always good to meet people who think about things in a similar way to you or share a common interest. In the pre-pandemic world, we might have joined a community knitting group or ecological society, for example, but in lockdown, it has meant that we can still meet these people – albeit virtually!

Another bonus to meeting people via social media is that instead of having a local area where you can meet people, you are now open to the whole world…

👎 Fake News and Misinformation

It is unfortunate that amongst the plethora of good people who are around on social media there are also unscrupulous people – in fact, often, they are not even people. Scammers, bots, and people with strong political views are at work to try to affect the way that you are thinking and it is important that you are aware of this to be able to protect yourself.

From people who are looking for your money or personal information to those who are looking to influence democracy and elections, to those who are seeking to change political opinions, this is a very current problem and one that social media platforms are grappling to deal with effectively.

👍 A Wealth of Information

The worldwide web has opened us up to an abundance of information and social media is doing its bit to help us to learn new skills. YouTube videos have been a great source of useful information, presented in a way that is easy to absorb, especially for those who have been trying to teach children from home, for example.

There are also several other ways that social media has had a positive impact on society during the lockdown:

  • It has given ordinary people an easy way to sell things. Whether you have had a clear-out and wanted to sell or give away objects or clothes that you don’t use anymore, or whether you have been making things to sell and earn a bit of money. Without the internet and social media, this wouldn’t have been possible.
  • It has given many older people the push that they needed to learn how to use technology. It has meant that grandparents and great grandparents have learned how to use Facebook, Skype, Zoom, or Instagram to be able to enjoy the benefits that they can give us – and helped them to stay in touch with the outside world – something especially important as it is these generations that have generally felt the isolation more than others.

One of the biggest lessons that we have learnt through the lockdown and our increased use of the internet and social media, however, is the value of face-to-face human contact. Social media has shown us that there is plenty that can be substituted by technology, but as we come out of lockdown we are noticing how important it is to us to be able to see each other and communicate on a personal level as well.

We’ve spent the past few months relying on social media more than we’ve ever had to, what with families and friends separated indefinitely and breaking news near enough every day. It’s certainly proven that it can be extremely useful, but there are also hidden dangers that we should all be aware of. By understanding the pros and cons of social media we can get the benefits from it whilst protecting ourselves from its risks.

It is also important to remember that, as lockdown eases and are able to spend time with our loved ones, to step away from the screens and avoid scrolling through our newsfeeds. As aforementioned, if there’s one thing we have learnt from the pandemic is that nothing compares to the value to face-to-face communication.

If you’re looking to reduce your scroll time, hereis a great article to help you break up with your phone.