Updated: Oct 21
The continuing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has a profound influence on individual behaviour. Willing or unwilling, people are required to transition from offline to online activities because of regulations designed to prevent virus transmission, such as “shelter-in-place” orders. In addition to remote work or study, many people spend their increased time online using social media sites — including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok — which may meet their needs for disaster-related information, amusement, and interpersonal contact. Despite the undeniably beneficial influence that social media can play in a situation such as COVID-19, an increase in social media use may prompt excessive, potentially addictive, social media use. Stress is a significant indicator of excessive social media usage. I have aimed to learn more about the connection between the COVID-19 distress and the increased use of social networking sites in young adults. Most individuals I have spoken to felt that they are overly concerned with or spending too much time on social media, using social media to regulate negative emotions or forget personal problems, feeling an urge to invest more time in social media to achieve the same level of enjoyment, and feeling insecure. For this case study, I conducted a zoom interview with an individual staying at home because of the COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney.
Individuals spend lots of time on the internet establishing connections when face-to-face communication is limited, to meet their social needs. During the first interview, Mr Gurung expressed he is staying at home because of lockdown, and he starts each morning by visiting several websites on his phone. When I asked him if there were any changes in using social media sites during the lockdown he replied with a smile, “I spend most of my time using the social media sites as I have lots of free time that I did not use to have before lockdown.”
I then asked if he had experienced any positive aspects of using social media sites during the lockdown. He emphasised the ability to communicate more with his family and friends because of social media sites, which were limited before lockdown. “I did not have enough time to communicate with loved ones, as I was getting overwhelmed with the monotonous day-to-day of my work and responsibilities. However, as I do not have to go to work during the lockdown, most of my time is spent using my phone, either communicating with others or scrolling through social media.”
It was not all positive though, as he quickly voiced concerns about excessive usage, and concerns over whether it outweighed the benefits it brought. Because of excessive social media use, he has also encountered several issues, such as becoming anxious and impatient. This has also affected his relationships. “Using the phone and social media sites, my communication with my wife and brother, who are also at home because of lockdown, is getting reduced. While I am active on social media sites, these are not genuine relationships. Because of how I spend most of my time scrolling social media sites, I do not spend enough time with my family at home.”
To conclude our short interview, I asked if he had identified some measures that he could adopt to minimise his excessive use. He replied sadly that he was “becoming so addicted to the phone that it is making me lazy; however, I cannot give up social media sites.” He continued by explaining that “instead of giving up using social media sites, I have managed to minimise the time I spend on his phone. I ordered some puzzle games online to play with my family members at home during the lockdown.” He is also learning to cook food that utilises his time, and he overall seems to be spending less time using social media sites.