How people found a safe space on social media during a pandemic
By Kishnika Dhawan
During the pandemic, social media has moved beyond its role of extending people’s lives to becoming a primary mode of communication. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram have been able to amplify demands for resources – whether for drugs, beds or oxygen cylinders – making us wonder how just a few months ago they were filled with revenue from dalgona cafe, fitness videos and reel challenges. This evolving nature of social media has been extremely intriguing.
The results of a survey conducted by the International Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS) in Mumbai reveal an increase in the use of social media apps in the first phase of the national lockdown. This peak can be attributed to the uncertainty that set in with the onset of the pandemic. In the absence of physical proximity, online spaces helped users connect with each other.
“Social media has helped me more than I would like to admit. This has been one of my biggest getaways during the pandemic – be it Twitter, Instagram, or WhatsApp. I am grateful that I have been able to stay in touch with my friends since the start of the pandemic. I also met a few people on Twitter who have grown quite close to me over time, ”said Anwesha, a 20-year-old student from Assam. indianexpress.com.
In terms of demographics, Generation Z – dubbed the “Social Media Generation” – dominates platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Snapchat. This is the same generation who are currently spending their pre-teens and early adulthood in isolation. Search performed by ‘The brave face of Generation Z‘notes that young people have been deeply affected by the crisis. Over 70% say they are currently going through higher stress levels because of Covid-19 and 57% say their mental well-being has been affected. In this situation, their primary mode of media consumption and communication has been social media.
A study published in Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networks in April 2021, found that for adolescents, using social media to actively cope with the situation to some extent relieved their feelings of distress and anxiety, thus increasing their sense of happiness.
But is this side of social networks reserved only for Generation Z? Not at all.
Priyanka Bhatia, 30 from Mumbai, said: “For me, living alone meant that the lines between work and personal life blurred and I sank into severe depression. It was then that I rediscovered BTS (K-pop group) on YouTube. When I say their music saved me, I really mean it. After setting up a Twitter account to follow their activities, I started interacting with the fandom and really felt like I found a safe space, which helped my sanity.
Delhi-based counseling psychologist Radhika Dhawan told the outlet that social media is now recognized as a healthy coping mechanism, “not only in the form of a distraction but also in the form of being connected. each other”.
“It helped people mobilize resources. In fact, a number of my clients have talked about finding a sense of belonging on social media that makes them feel safe and connected, ”she said.
There has also been a growth of non-traditional platforms like Discord, Reddit, and Clubhouse, which have helped people cope with loneliness.
Amrita, an undergraduate student from Bangalore, told us how she found such a community. “I saw a post on Reddit where they were looking for like-minded people from Bengaluru, for a Platonic group between 21 and 27. I immediately signed up and was added to a Discord server. There I met amazing people and built a friendship by playing online games, listening to music, and chatting. Now whenever I’m stressed or frustrated with college, I share with them.
While this is a blessing, when it comes to social media, there is a need to draw a line between coping mechanisms and addiction. Omar Bazza, therapist based in Canada and host of the YouTube channel PsycDelivered, told this outlet: “Social media has become an important tool for staying connected. However, there are consequences to this as well – primarily the presence of misinformation and the fact that social media can also be associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression.
Dhawan said that for a start it should remain part of your routine and not become your entire routine. “The minute the latter occurs, it doesn’t take time for personal comparisons to creep into your life, impacting your confidence and self-esteem. Instead, it should be seen and used as a getaway for up to 1.5 hours of downtime.
(The writer is an intern at Indian Express)
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