Social Media in the Coronavirus Lockdown
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, it can be hugely anxiety-provoking, because it feeds that part of our brains that can’t help but compare us viciously to those around us. For example: “Oh my goodness, look how lovely she looks on that evening out with her friends. I don’t want to go out, but I don’t want to be the one with nothing to share! I bet everyone thinks I’m such a sad creature that never has any fun.” Et cetera, for time immemorial.
While this may have become a moot point in the time of lockdown, social media certainly has not lost its ability to be a time-sucking black hole. It can still leach time from my day and consume me in worlds that are not my own, for worse rather than better. It is not the best friend of a procrastinator! I cannot be the only one who has tapped on certain apps ‘for a quick look’ and emerged an hour later, horrified by all the wasted time.
But social media is not all doom and gloom. Without it, I would not have found #edutwitter, an absolute goldmine of discussion, debate, resources and support. And without other channels, I would find it impossible to maintain contact with family and friends hundreds of miles away. When used for good, social media can be warm and friendly.
However, it is precisely this friendliness that has fed the secondary issue of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus.”Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, director-general of the WHO, 15th February 2020
All it takes is for one friend to share the latest ‘news,’ and suddenly a whole group has fallen foul of nothing more than speculation or fear-mongering. About a month ago, my feeds were crammed with this. Between the regular stream of eerily-targeted adverts was post after post about how to avoid coronavirus, what to do if you come into contact with it to ‘guaranteed immediately kill the virus’ and statistical projections which seemed as unlikely as they were terrifying.
I am glad to say this is no longer the case for me, though I have friends now avoiding some social media channels entirely, as they remain saturated in conspiracy theories even amid a lockdown.
The title of this entry is borrowed from #seekingsunshine, a product of Blurt Foundation in these uncertain times. “Seeking sunshine” or looking for small moments of happiness, is not a new experience for me. In my last post, which you can read here, I wrote about focusing on the little things as a way to get through a tough time. #seekingsunshine epitomises the seismic shift I have noticed in social media since the UK lockdown began. People are sharing their little moments of joy, and others, sometimes total strangers, are joining clusters of conversation and connecting in bubbles of safety where coronavirus isn’t even a concern.
Elsewhere than Twitter, I have seen a warmth and comfort in social media that I have never noticed so strongly before. Birthdays are still happening, but the comments to accompany them seem more real now. It is not a quick ‘Happy Birthday!’ and done; stories are shared, kindnesses are exchanged both ways. People are posting snapshots of their real lives in lockdown, not the highly polished lives that normally appear. And the conversation beneath each one is so genuine – connections are happening through screens to remind us of the connections we tended before we were confined to our homes.
It would seem that social media has found its original purpose in its return to all things social. For some, this is a lifeline. For others, it’s a bit of distraction in the long days that all seem to blend into one.
For me? It’s just helping me find and share a little bit of sunshine. The love/hate balance is certainly tipping more one way than the other, let’s put it that way.