Within a two week span, our daily lives have been flipped upside down. Because of social distancing every class, event, appointment and social event has been CANCELLED. And we have no idea for how long. Even people who didn’t love going to their jobs, are missing their daily routine and their paychecks. Teenagers are missing going to school. It is a bizarre time to be alive and a period in time we will be reflecting on for years to come.
Social Media is simply a way of life for most people these days. But, in this time of Social Distancing is social media helping or hindering our mental and physical health? Project B3 found a helpful article online with some tips from Natalie Pennington — a UNLV communication studies professor – who researches the benefits and harms of social media — to find out the best ways to make your online experience work for you during this time.
Here’s what she had to say:
1. Think Physical Distance Not Social Distance
Increasingly cities, states, and entire countries are putting in place measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. During this time, individuals may find themselves isolated from their friends and family. Remembering the many ways we can use technology, and best practices, can help ensure that while we have to be physically distant from our loved ones, we don’t have to be socially distant from them.
2. Balance Social Media Use
Social media can be fantastic for connecting with your social network, but keep in mind that if you are feeling lonely or anxious that those feelings can be perpetuated by logging online. In my own interviews with people who have quit social media, mental health was a big reason that participants stepped away. For those who aren’t ready to quit, research has shown that just passively reading social media is insufficient to feel connected to others; so, if you are logging on, post and comment to connect with your network. Besides social media, there are a lot of ways to connect: phone calls, texting, video chat, and emails are all great options for staying socially connected with your network.
3. Practice Directed Communication
In line with stepping back from social media, if you can, take the time to reach out to call, text, or email with someone you care about each day. This one-to-one communication can do wonders for your overall health and well-being. Consider re-connecting with someone you haven’t talked with in a while and checking in on friends or loved ones who may be alone and could use the extra talk more so than someone who has a spouse or other family at home with them. People want to feel connected, and even just a text to say hello can go a long way.
4. Inject Humor
To help slow the spread of the virus, there has been an influx of social media users using their own brand of viral messages to get the word out about prevention. They include singing songs to encourage following best practices by washing your hands for 20 seconds, images and stories of kids and pets as new ‘coworkers’, and images from nurses and doctors that have a similar “stay home for us” message. If we can instill humor to break up the tension, it can help us get through the day to day.
5. Don’t Give Up on That New Relationship
If you were just getting started with a new romantic relationship, don’t give up on it! Plenty of people have had success with online dating for over a decade now, and part of that is knowing the benefits and opportunities afforded by technology. Research shows that we can build relationships online that are just as strong as the ones we would form face-to-face, so consider having ‘virtual dates’ through video chat or sending emails to continue the courtship.
6. Get Creative
Several companies are offering ways to connect with your loved ones—use Netflix Party to watch your favorite show or movie with friends. If you own any of the JackBox party packs, you can also host virtual game nights using Steam, Twitch, or YouTube. Consider joining Reddit to connect with people in your community or around interests or hobbies you have. Most important, think about how to take advantage of technology to maintain the things you would have done anyway. Wishing you could have a happy hour with your friends? Participate in a Google Hangout and cheers from the safety of your own home.
(Source: Keyonna Summers, unlv.edu)
Project B3 thinks that right now, there is a fine line between the right amount of social media use and way too much use. People of all ages are stuck inside, craving connection with people. You may log on to check in your friends and family, but realize that 3 hours later you have accomplished nothing and you feel overwhelmed by all that is going on in the world. It would be a great time to set up some personal boundaries for yourself and for younger people in your home.
While on Social Media, keep in mind what you want to get out of it. Do you check in for connection? To send messages to friends? For a laugh? To catch up on the daily “news”? While scrolling through your social media account, keep in mind when you feel like you’ve seen enough. Just because you HAVE the time right now, doesn’t mean it’s HOW your want to be spending your time. Be sure to connect with the people that are right there with you, under your own roof.