Social Media Makes Social Distancing Not So ‘Distanced’ During COVID-19 Outbreak

By T’Keyah Hayes, Howard University News Service

Washington, D.C.—With a global pandemic keeping millions of people in their homes, many people across the globe are yearning for the feeling of being outside again—especially with their friends and family. As the coronavirus spreads across the world limiting physical touch with others, social media is playing a more prominent role.

Social media has become the new normal for how some communicate with each other. Through video chatting, text messaging, and apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, people can still keep in touch with their loved ones while also resuming their daily school and work schedules. 

Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, social media platforms have reported increased usage among its consumers. According to a blog published by Facebook, total messaging on the platform has increased 50 percent more over the last month in countries hit hardest by COVID-19. WhatsApp and Instagram, both owned by Facebook, have also reported a 40 percent increase in usage among the 18-to-34-year-old age demographic due to the pandemic. 

For some people, communication via social media has not been the easiest when it comes to working.

“The communication has been very rocky,” says Ashley Porter, a membership activation specialist at Monumental Sports, the home to Washington Wizards, Washington Mystics, and the Washington Capitals. 

Porter is currently working from home due to COVID-19. “I miss in-person meetings, because it was way easier to get things done.”

After homeschooling and working from home, social media users can enjoy digital congregations with hundreds of thousands of people via apps with live recording capabilities such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. 

From birthday parties to customized social media challenges, users are finding different creative ways to stay in touch with the rest of the world. Most popularly, live DJ parties, talent shows, and songwriter/producer battles have taken over Instagram’s live stream with some with a peak of over 300,000 viewers in one night. 

Despite social media helping to fill the void of communication, the gap in physical contact remains.

Based on a study by Paul Zak, a professor of economic sciences, psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University in California, social distancing will deprive us of oxytocin needed for humans to thrive. Oxytocin, a hormone known as the “love drug”, is released when people bond socially. Releases of oxytocin could include 20-second hugs, or even just a simple touch of from a friend.

There are several ways to communicate with your loved ones—even eye contact can go a long way with getting that oxytocin needed to function. During these times it is important to remember that social distancing is only physical and should not be confused with lack of communication with others. Social media serves the purpose of closing the gap that exists during quarantine.