Social media use, experiences of social connectedness and well-being during COVID-19
Authors: Taylor, J., Abba, I., Baradel, A., Lay, J., Herewini, J. and Taylor, A.
Editors: Mustafa, A.A.
Background: This chapter will review research that has investigated associations between social media use and both positive and negative mental health and social life experiences. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not clear how mental health and wellbeing of individuals is affected by different ways of using social media, specifically during the restrictions which took place within the first 3 monsth. The qualitative research reported in this chapter will explore these effects Method: An online survey was completed by 377 students aged 18-28 years between May and June 2020. An open-ended question was asked and it is the responses to this question that are reported in this chapter. The question was, ‘What ways (if any) has COVID-19 and its physical distancing and social gathering restrictions changed your social media habits?’.
Results: Qualitative responses were analysed using the thematic analysis procedure outlined by Braun and Clarke (2006). Two researchers separately completed different stages to code each response according to initial themes and then developed new themes and sub-themes where a response could not be coded. There were five main themes reflecting changes in the use of social media and the impacts of these changes on participants: 1) Using social media for connection, with two sub-themes relationship maintenance and relationship initiation; 2) Passive social media use, was divided into three sub-themes: more scrolling and less one-to-one messaging; reduced posting due to less offline social behaviour, and Fear of Missing Out; 3) Mental health impacts, was divided into three sub-themes: over-use of social media, negative socio-emotional changes, and positive socio-emotional changes; 4) Social media as a way to relieve boredom, procrastinate or entertain (three sub-themes), and 5) COVID-19 news or discussion, with two sub-themes avoiding news about COVID-19 and seeking news about COVID-19.
Conclusions and further research: The results contribute to an understanding of how changes in social media use are related to experiences of well-being during COVID-19. The findings will inform the next stage of research which involves conducting semi-structured interviews with 15 participants to explore in more depth the lived experiences of young people during the extended COVID-19 restriction period.