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Has social media proven itself to be a force for good amid pandemic?

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The rise of social media has had a seismic impact on how we communicate. The negative impacts of social networks, especially on the young, have long been acknowledged. But amid the Covid-19 pandemic, has it proven itself as a force for good?
Our graduate intern, Shaira Ghoorun, outlines her thoughts…

Twenty years ago, at the turn of the millennium, many people were only just becoming aware of Google and integrating email into their day-to-day working lives. The very first instant messaging service had only just been developed.

There was no Snapchat, no Instagram, no LinkedIn, no Twitter. Facebook was still three or four years away from its creation. A story was most commonly found in a book – it certainly wasn’t an image that would disappear after 24 hours.

Today we carry our social connections everywhere we go on our phones and we are constantly exposed to news and opinion.

When we first heard about Covid-19, I don’t think many people imagined it would make a round-the-world trip or bring our lives to a halt. Now most of the world is, or has been, in lockdown, people have been coming to blows over dried pasta, and the Prime Minister nearly died from the illness.

The virus outbreak has brought some negatives of social media to light. We are readily exposed to things just by pressing a button – things that we probably wouldn’t know about or question otherwise. There’s barely a moment where Covid-19 doesn’t make the breaking news headlines. Everywhere we look, at any hour of the day or night, there seems to be new death statistics and bleak statements. The constant discussions and posting can be somewhat stifling and exhausting to see at every moment.

Many of us – myself included – log onto social media for a quick escape from real life for a little while. You scroll through Instagram with a cup of tea and see what everybody’s up to. But this escape route is slowly being taken away.

Yet there are some positive aspects of social media which are coming to the fore during the lockdown. Here are six that have emerged over the past few weeks:

1. News travels fast
The volume and frequency of news updates have a positive side too – we can dip in and out for a quick overview of what is happening. This is particularly important as things seem to be changing fairly often!

2. If social media didn’t exist, we’d probably be a lot more bored 
YouTube, Instagram TV, TikTok and Buzzfeed are just a few of the social media sites and apps featuring new content that will help keep you entertained. Challenges, quizzes, entertainment, exercise and culinary tutorials are all available.

3. Social media makes it easier to stay in contact with our nearest and dearest – even if we can’t see them in the flesh
We were all messaging each other while we could see each other anyway, so it makes sense, surely? Social networks are enabling us to stay in constant touch with our friends, families and colleagues.

4. Community spirit
“But how can there still be community spirit when we don’t see each other?!” you ask. Well… the answer to that is… social media. Over the past few years, Facebook community groups for local villages and towns have become more popular and there has been a boom in groups set up specifically to help people during the pandemic. People have been offering help and support to those who are vulnerable or in quarantine, providing valuable information and pulling together as a true community should in a time of need.

5. Fundraising and petitions
Fundraising via social media has increased in the past few years, but during the progression of Covid-19, more fundraising pages have been set up online to raise money for key workers, mental health services, vulnerable communities, those suffering from the virus, and many others. Alongside this, a number of online petitions have circulated regarding extra support for key workers such as the NHS and care workers.

6. Video calling
Social media, smart technology, and WiFi have combined to ensure that we are still able to video call those closest to us. This was already popular, but it has proven to be even more so during lockdown.

The negative aspects of social media still need to be addressed to ensure the safety and sanity of users moving forward, but there is no denying that social media has shown it can be used as a force for good.

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