Social media has been a prevalent platform during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Its use reaches countless purposes. It is a connection to family and community, an escape from the reality of the world, a marketing tool, an awareness promoter, and also a spreader of misinformation. These aspects of evolving social media usage cross the boundaries of both beneficial and detrimental. Learning to adapt to the constantly changing climate of social media is important to understand, in order to maneuver through work as a public relations professional.
During the time of the pandemic it’s been hard for many to connect with friends, family, and their communities. Social media is just one of the many ways that people are working to stay connected to each other when they can’t be together physically. One form of social media that has acquired a larger following since the pandemic is Tiktok.
Tiktok hosts a wide array of different communities, including but not limited to, Cottage Core Tiktok, Witch Tiktok, Alt Tiktok, and Dance Tiktok. These offer large communities between strangers and friends, and create an opportunity for people to feel less alone during the pandemic. Many older relatives are also turning to social media for the first time in order to connect with the older and younger members of their family. So much so that in a recent study 64% of those ages 35 to 49, and 34% of those ages 65 and up stated an increased social media following from March to May, with March and May being the months that had the most strict lockdowns during the pandemic.
One family, The McFarlands even rose to fame by filming their antics on Tiktok as a way to keep from being bored in the house during COVID-19. Among these antics they’re most well known for their group dancing videos. This form of content’s main purpose is to serve as a vehicle for smiles and laughter- something needed during tough times.
Not only has social media been used to cure loneliness during this pandemic, it has also provided a sense of escape. Something that many have struggled with, during the lockdown period, was finding things to do. For many, the solution was to log into social media and endlessly scroll through status updates, short videos, selfies, memes, and inspirational posts. The endless stream of content that is available on these platforms can cause the time to go by, and distract people from the real world. More bad news comes in every day of 2020. Some people chose to focus on real life updates, and others ignore it, by concentrating on the feel-good side of social media.
Information and Misinformation
For those who choose to tune into every update in current events, social media became the hub for quick briefings. Across all platforms information is shared nonstop about current events. For many users, their social feed is where they get a majority of their updates. This can be good, as it is a quick way of receiving important information. During the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, many relied on their social media for the quickest updates. Unfortunately, some of this news has not always been factual, and with the spread of information being amplified, it has led to a lot of division on where groups of people stand on the same issues. One example of this, in relation to COVID-19, is the anti-masker agenda. It has widely been spread on social media, through the attention it has gained, by people against wearing masks, and also people for it. By mentioning this issue on social media, both parties are amplifying how frequently it will show. This is done by using hashtags, follows, and shares to spread its relevancy in the algorithms. In this niche, there are vast amounts of misinformation about COVID-19, including vaccines, guidelines, and mask usage, that can be detrimental to how the public has reacted to the pandemic. Not only does it affect the health and safety of the public, it has also caused a lot of division between people. Recently Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have been fighting against this issue by creating misinformation warnings on posts that seem to include unfactual content. While misinformation can often get mixed in with the actual truth, there is a great amount of guidance that social media has made available. One instance that sticks out the most is the addition of a COVID-19 Response segment that has been added to Instagram’s Search Page. This page includes the accounts for CDC and WHO, which are two large organizations, that have taken on the brunt of information delivery during the pandemic.
Altogether, social media has largely been impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. It is easy to say that the effect social media has had on connectivity to communities will permanently change the way we communicate with others, and help to minimize the divide between generations, and their usage of social media. This is a lasting effect that will probably continue to strengthen past this pandemic. It has offered an escape to so many, when it feels like there is so little to do, or that can be done. The vast amount of communities available to people on social media helps to offer this escape from the real world, and can affect how people interact with each other. Another issue that has been impacted by social media, and the pandemic, is division caused by the mass-spreading of information. It is fair to say that this large-scale amplification of ideas is going to continue past the pandemic, but it definitely has come to a forefront with current events, because it’s something that so many can relate to worldwide. Overall, social media has formed a sense of community for so many, during a time when people can’t actually be together. This is something that public relations professionals will have to maneuver around in the future and adapt to, as the world of social media is constantly evolving to fit consumer needs.