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Social media helps counter shelter-in-place loneliness, boredom

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Deja Goode
Staff Writer

As the pandemic has kept us physically distant from just about everyone in our normal lives, students, along with everyone else, are relying more than ever on social media.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused social media use to increase across platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. For instance, Twitter has tracked a dramatic increase in use in recent months according to Business of Apps.

The increase is based on a combination of boredom, loneliness, and needs for school and work, according to recent reports. It’s also another way to maintain human connection without risking getting each other sick.

Interaction through social media has focused more on checking on loved ones and even forging new friendships. For some, it is the perfect outlet to express feelings and gain a sense of direction in a time of uncertainty.

Taylor Vasquez, a sophomore educational studies major at the University of La Verne, said she makes about five TikTok videos a day.

“It’s a distraction from what is going on in the world,” Vasquez said, “Sometimes the (news) media can be overwhelming when all you see is stuff about the pandemic, but I do enjoy making funny videos about my experiences and connecting with others.”

Vasquez regularly uploads content showcasing fun things she is doing indoors, like her newfound love for baking and creating content that serves as a digital journal entry explaining how she is feeling.

“It has been really comforting knowing people are listening and want to hear stuff like that,” Vasquez said. “It’s the human connection I needed still.”

This trend on TikTok has many creators participating and has united people in interesting ways. With the hashtag #StayingHome, over 3 million videos have been uploaded, some sharing their thoughts and fears regarding the pandemic, others creating humorous scenarios to lighten the situation as much as possible.

People in quarantine have found that using social media makes them feel less alone and have been using social media apps as a direct source to stay engaged with friends.

A junior ULV student and member of the Campus Activities Board, Danyelle Jacob created a self-care bingo which was a way to check in on friends and their well-being during a time of social distancing.

“It is hard to maintain balance in times like these especially when you don’t see your friends regularly when that was a part of your everyday routine,” Jacob said.

Jacob said one of the hardest things about self-isolation is being away from her friends and not being able to see and know how they’re doing, but using social media to stay connected with her friends has made a huge difference for her emotionally.

“Missing everyone has made me anxious so creating this self-care bingo and seeing their answers was a way for me to make sure they were doing alright without them even knowing it,” Jacob said.

A current trend on Instagram includes fun chain posts where people tag friends on their Instagram stories with themed bingo templates, sharing their favorite song, or even listing their top five favorite movies and those who are tagged continue the chain and mention other people. These themed posts have made their comeback as this activity was more popular in 2012.

Zandra Wagoner, interfaith chaplain at the University of La Verne, said speaking with friends daily will bring a sense of normalcy and comfort and make the transition of things being virtual somewhat easier.

A common response from struggling students was that their friends had a major impact on their everyday life and a lot of them didn’t realize until we were put under social distancing orders.

Various companies have been on top of creating ways for people to connect virtually to promote the importance of staying home while also maintaining the human connection that is encouraged by mental health specialists.

Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus, as well as online gaming have been the primary sources of entertainment and online gatherings among friends.

Recently, Activision created a free, modified, battle royale version of one of their most popular games, “Call of Duty: Warzone.” This game mode supports up to 150 players and allows friends to play together on teams.

Daylen Shields, a Chaffey College graduate and long-time gamer, mentioned his increased participation in online gaming since the start of the pandemic.

“I already played games a lot, but it has definitely increased ever since quarantine started,” Shields said.

Shields expressed that his media consumption is very limited and has had to engage in social media more since this is one of the only ways to interact with friends. While he chats with his friends in a group chat on various platforms, the one way he keeps that human connection is through video games.

“I have never been one to be online all the time but I feel comforted by it now,” Shields said, “I never knew how useful things like this could actually be because I wasn’t limited by a threat of my health before.”

Netflix released an extension of their streaming service called Netflix Party, a Google Chrome extension that allows people to watch movies and shows with friends virtually and text chat during them.

Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, told The Verge magazine that subscriptions have increased by 22% since the start of the pandemic.

The prolonged periods of social isolation and businesses being ordered to work remotely have been the biggest test.

The rapid growth of online entertainment and programming is setting the tone for the future of technology and how dominant it will be in business, school, and even entertainment. However, they have already started adapting to the new trend of working and marketing from home.

Companies have been using social media to market their businesses and increase engagement. For instance, Fenty Beauty has showcased several marketing campaigns that required responses and participation from their customers. They are using social media to connect with and co-create with customers and – more importantly – to provide a platform to customers to bond together.

Many of these businesses have started to use social media to engage with customers and talk with them about the brand.

Mansoor Iqbal, a social media specialist working for Business of Apps, showed that TikTok’s usage has increased by 57% in a single month in the sense that these users now upload their own content. TikTok has taken on many partnerships with companies, such as Wish, Subway, and even Fenty Beauty, to market through social media.

It goes to show that the world is evolving quickly and media has become the new frontline for the future of companies.

The pandemic will inspire the reimagining of operations as the spread of the pandemic continues to change how we handle commercialism.

Deja Goode can be reached at deja.goode@laverne.edu.

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