In the Age of Social Distancing, Social Media Is Bridging the Gap
If you get off your device for 10 minutes and look around, you’ll notice that everyone else is tuned in. Do people even look up when they cross the road?
Jomar Delos Santos
I’ve always been a skeptic of social media. I’ve watched people gradually go from regular socializing to blankly staring at their phones at every opportunity. At the dinner table, the bus, the cafe line. If you get off your device for 10 minutes and look around, you’ll notice that everyone else is tuned in. Do people even look up when they cross the road?
I’ve even wrestled with certain dichotomies social media can create. The separation between online and physical personas. The altered behaviour that comes with a manufactured yearning for validation. I was always around people, so criticism for this other world was easy to deliver. I adhered to these critical proponents because their perspective made sense.
Fast forward to today. Nearly everyone is stuck inside under quarantine across the globe. Fines of up to $1000 might be enacted in Canada for people breaking social-distancing rules. Endless hours of figuring out what to do, how to exercise, how to pass time. How are we staying connected?
Now more than ever I am seeing why social media is essential, especially in a crisis situation. Group activities, documented cooking, group video chats. Facts of life have changed. I can now rely on a large percentage of my friends to be socially available at a mouse click, albeit remotely.
Canadians don’t have an exact of idea of when we’ll be able to return to work again. The government says 2 months. Health care workers say we might be out as early as July. Some business are pushing for two weeks. Who has our best interests at heart? Probably not the businesses.
But they still need to exist for our economy to keep going. Now the search for truth is diverted away from social media. The ever-vigilant critical eye is diverted away from what now has become more than normal practice. Social media has transformed into an essential platform that contributes to the positive mental-health and social well-being of the planet.
I spoke to two professionals in separate lines of work not directly disrupted by the pandemic’s at home restrictions, but affected by it indirectly. One person, “R” is a student nurse, who was recently pulled from his hospital practicum when worries about the pandemic grew in severity.
R has been staying connected with his friends, family and partner through social media, while upping his use to account for the space left by social-distancing. He shared his thoughts on connecting during the pandemic.
J: Why is social connection so important to getting through this?
R: Just being able to understand how mental health is such a big facet of healthcare that is really undermined in the grand scheme of health care… In this context of social isolation– we’re social people, we need that stimulation in our bodies to be a part of a community; to aid connection. It doesn’t have to be physical… Why do people get into clubs? Why do people join social groups? It’s just to incite that mutual bond that fosters a thought process of camaraderie.
J: Do you feel like your social media usage has gone up with everything that’s happening?
R: 100%. In my scope of practice I’m thinking about how social media has been a pioneer in combatting isolation. Even how telecommunication is being pushed to its limits by that. For me to hear you not cough right now speaks volumes to me. It’s reassurance at the end of the day.
R speaks about a collective peace of mind that we might not have without the increased connectivity brought on by social media.
But how has this changed for people already working from home? I had a quick call with “B,” another professional already used an at-home work schedule. B is an app developer who also heads an online marketing business. Before the pandemic, B was balancing a day job but completed a majority of his work online.
J: How has work changed for you since the pandemic started?
B: I mean, it’s different right now… because a lot of small businesses everywhere have to adapt to this pandemic. The niche that I’m working in deals with yoga studios. A lot of people who are into fitness are transitioning towards virtual classes. It doesn’t really affect me with what I do but it really has an adverse affect on brick-and-mortar business dealing with a shortage of walk-in clients. I have to be mindful that everyone is struggling in terms of money, so I’m pivoting my strategy to offer services for free, which helps support studios through this transitionary period.
J: You mentioned businesses experiencing disruptions this pandemic. Do you feel that bleeding into your workflow at all? Maybe in how much you work or the availability of work?
B: Personally I think my quality of work has slowed down. Also, just mentality. Being stuck at home and not being able to go outside or see friends has had an effect on my social life. I’ve been losing a bit of focus. But I’ve also been reconnecting with people I haven’t talked to in years. I’ve been spending more time on that than my business.
J: Have your priorities changed at all?
B: I would say my priorities are the same. Just getting used to a new routine and structure… I just have to get my focus back.
J: How has social media affected these relationships that you’ve mentioned? These reconnections with old friends and business partners. Do you think it’s more important now than it has been previously?
B: I think my usage has definitely gone up because that’s the only form of communication now. But I’ve also expanded my social media presence. I’ve downloaded these different platforms: Houseparty, Zoom, on top of Instagram and FaceTime. I used to use a couple of apps, but now I’m on these other platforms since we’re all trying to find different ways to connect with each other. Without social media, I feel like I’d be losing my mind.
Collectively, we’ve seen social media shift from an optional extension of our true selves to something undoubtably essential as we bide time through this pandemic. These unique circumstances brought on by the self-quarantine have encouraged a culture of reconnection, only enhanced by the convenience that social media provides.
The alleviation of panic and establishment of a mutual support base makes this wait marginally easier. It continually reminds us of why staying home is so important.
J: How should people be viewing this? People (including myself) seem to thinking about the time-off in terms of financial loss.
R: In my mind I’m viewing this through a medical perspective. Because a lot of people are seeing this a burden. Especially people with business ventures or people who are self-employed. It’s a bigger thing, it’s bigger than who they are. I’m playing the role as a care provider to advocate for the safety of patients. People are seeing it as a hindrance to their plans for the year but we need to be viewing how the crisis affects us on a larger scale. Every positive action counts.
Jomar Delos Santos
I write articles to clear your head (and mine).