User Online: How Staying Connected Via Our Phones During Covid-19 Has Impacted Our Mental Health

In January 2020, I became aware of how many hours I was wasting scrolling on various social media platforms. I began limiting my screen time and trying to fill the hours with more productive activities instead, whether that was chatting to friends, reading or doing uni work.

However, this plan was short lived as the Covid-19 pandemic altered life globally. Forced indoors with limited human contact, my phone was the only way to reach my friends and family. My screen time went up and I began frequently doomscrolling; the pandemic took over my life, constantly refreshing Twitter for the latest update about the virus.

Since the pandemic began, our phones have been a vital point of contact to stay connected with the outside world, whether that is news outlets or our friends. Our screen time has gone up but this doesn’t mean it’s been a waste; a lot of the time it has been essential for our mental wellbeing.

After moving back home during the pandemic, away from my university friends and with loved ones scattered around the country, there was no option to meet physically. A text message here and a video call there were the only points of contact I had with many of the people who I missed dearly.

Back in March 2020 it seemed everyone had moved their lives online. People were constantly active on Facebook, sharing memories on Instagram or tweeting their boredom on Twitter. As someone who thrives off human interaction I was in my element. I was constantly speaking to other people and being surrounded by friends, if only virtually. Whereas previously my friends may have a replied a few times a day, now they were instantly replying to me. I’m ashamed to say I loved how available people were to chat.

But this expectation of people to be available online has had negative impacts too, especially as places in the UK have begun to reopen and peoples social calendars are filling up. I’ve grown used to my friends being home and contactable. Once again, what people are comfortable with is causing issues within social environments, as some people are at parties whilst others would prefer a virtual event from the comfort of their own home.

As my anxiety surrounding the pandemic continued into the summer months of 2020, social media became a negative space. Every time I logged on to Facebook and Instagram I faced pictures of friends at parties, going on holiday or just doing things I wasn’t personally comfortable with. It upset me and it began fuelling a rage I felt against people – why didn’t people care? I scrolled and scrolled through posts which only made me angrier; and I knew it was bad for me.

During this time I decided to have a clear out online, ridding of people who I didn’t need to have online, those who angered me or who didn’t bring me happiness. (Spoiler: it was the best thing I could’ve done.) Understanding that I could adapt my social media so it was a safe, but more importantly happy, place for me allowed me to rid of all the negative emotions I had connected with social media.

More recently, I have turned my notifications off so that I’m not tempted to be online 24/7. As much as my friends don’t owe it to me to be constantly available, I don’t owe it to them either. Of course I still want to use social media to stay in touch with my loved ones, but it’s important to me that I approach that in a positive and healthy way.

Covid-19 has enforced a reliance on online presence and creeping back into an IRL world is likely to feel scary. People aren’t going to be as active online but that’s okay. For me, I just need to keep myself occupied in other ways, and remember that just because my friends don’t reply instantly it doesn’t mean they hate me – they are probably just busy.

Image courtesy of Maxim Ilyahov.

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