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Absence makes the heart grow fonder: How is technology helping us socialise?

Researchers say virtual communication cannot replace face-to-face interactions. But since the COVID-19 outbreak, many of us are using virtual apps like “Houseparty” and “Zoom” and social simulation games like “Animal Crossing” to fulfil our need for social connection, in a safe and socially distanced way. Social connection, ‘a person’s subjective sense of having close and positively experienced relationships with others in the social world’, is a core human need. An absence of social connection has been linked with poor emotional wellbeing, such as feelings of loss and sadness, and pain akin to physical injury.

The Global Covid Study’s Instagram polls have found that:

  • 13% of respondents are in lockdown alone
  • 25% of respondents moved back to their families
  • 60% of respondents are finding lockdown stressful

Even before the pandemic, research has been steadily finding that more people are communicating online than offline. But perhaps this pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in our virtual social presence. If social distancing measures are here to stay, what role does the internet and technology have in helping us stay socially connected?

  • Meeting new people and catching up with old friends face-to-face is now harder or impossible. Research has shown that when relationships are at risk of decaying from lack of interaction, we will invest more time in communicating to reinforce our social connections. With an internet connection, we are able to safely maintain our existing connections and even form new ones virtually.

Despite the benefits, the emerging phenomenon of “Zoom Fatigue” is a good example of how prolonged and intensive use of the internet and technologies every day in lockdown can leave us feeling drained and exhausted. To combat Zoom Fatigue, here are a few tips on how to stay socially connected with one another without getting overwhelmed.

  • Build-in breaks. If you have back-to-back virtual meetings, consider making them 25 or 50 minutes instead of 30 minutes or an hour. This will give you a little time in between to get up and prepare for the next meeting.

The pandemic has shifted our working and social lives to being “digital-only” for the time being. But remember, it’s important to take breaks from the technology when we need them to take care of our mental wellbeing. Technology is often portrayed as an influencer of negative social behaviours. However, there is a silver lining in recognising that in these challenging and uncertain times, technology has allowed us to carry on with our working lives, safely communicate with our loved ones, and to virtually maintain our social connections.


This post was co-written by Ms. Kyleigh Melville (@MelvilleKyleigh), a final year student on the BSc in Psychology with Education degree at UCL and Dr Keri Wong (@DrKeriWong).

How do you use technology? Are you adequately equipped to work from home? Please send your comments to contact@globalcovidstudy.com or tag us on @GlobalC19Study (Twitter) and GlobalC19Study (Instagram). We’d love to hear from you!

2 replies on “Absence makes the heart grow fonder: How is technology helping us socialise?”

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