How Social Isolation Drove People Online

Increased isolation during COVID-19 has led to a surge in online messaging and social media use among Singapore residents, according to a nationwide study.

AsianScientist (Feb. 23, 2021) – Find yourself using social media more often nowadays? You’re not alone. According to researchers, the use of online messaging and social media apps among Singapore residents spiked during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In our post-pandemic world where Zoom is a household name and work-from-home is actively encouraged—if not outright mandated—it’s no surprise that social media use has surged as friends, families and colleagues strive to stay connected.

Surveying 1,606 local residents in December 2020, a team from Nanyang Technology University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) investigated communication habits in the new normal and the underlying factors potentially driving these changes.

Despite widespread privacy concerns, Facebook-backed WhatsApp dominates in Singapore—with three out of four respondents (75 percent) saying that their use of the online messaging platform increased during the pandemic. This was followed by Telegram (60.3 percent), Facebook (60.2 percent) and Instagram (59.7 percent).

Likewise, video conferencing also soared during the pandemic, with some 86 percent reporting increased use of such tools. The steady stream of video calls and webinars, however, comes at a price: fatigue. Nearly one in two Singapore residents (44 percent) said they felt drained from video conferencing activities.

According to the researchers, the rising use of online messaging and communication tools could be partly driven by feelings of isolation caused by limited physical interaction. Among the respondents, 35 percent indicated sometimes feeling that they lacked companionship while 32 percent also reported sometimes feeling left out.

Indeed, the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health have been widely documented with previous studies in China and Japan respectively describing the pandemic’s toll on healthcare workers and the general population.

“[The pandemic’s long-term effects on social behavior and interactions] is something we hope to keep track of…especially as health experts warn of future pandemics if we keep up with the same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss,” commented Associate Professor Edson C. Tandoc Jr from NTU Singapore. “Documenting long-term behavioural changes due to COVID-19 can inform policy and industry.”


Source: Nanyang Technological University; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

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