Social networking during COVID

How we adapted to living online during a pandemic


My narrative noodling about how life might have been had the COVID pandemic happened 20 years ago drew some thoughtful responses. Thanks! 

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To look at the role of social networking in navigating the actual COVID pandemic, I spoke with Dr. Genavee Brown,* a lecturer in social psychology at Northumbria University in Newcastle, U.K. Genavee’s academic work highlights 

examining the types of relationships that people maintain online and how they use tools, like social media, to help them communicate with friends and family. More specifically, I have looked at how mobile phones can distract from friendship interactions. I have also examined how university students use Facebook to maintain and develop friendships during the transition to university. 

We used Zoom for our conversation. I converted the audio file into a podcast (my first as host; her first as guest!). 

Some takeaways

  • “If the pandemic would have happened 20 years ago, we would have been in trouble.”

  • People would have found ways to connect, using more traditional methods — telephone calls, snail mail, etc. But technology allowed richer ways for people who weren’t in the same household or neighborhood to stay in touch than before.

  • The heavy reliance on online communication forced by COVID may lead people to reconsider what they value — when they prefer face-to-face interactions with family members, friends, and work colleagues over virtual contact. It could change the way we manage time. 

Her next work will look at how Twitter can alter the way people view issues related to power including manners, bullying, and objectification, based on the size of Twitter users’ audience. (This will be fascinating.)

I had hoped to post the entire video on YouTube. My Zoom conducting skills are lousy. You would have seen a static image of the two screens throughout:

An audio feed made more sense. (Though props to Zoom for providing excellent audio for the pod!)

Hope you enjoy it!**

Show notes

Relevant recent publications Genavee Brown co-authored:

Staying connected during stay-at-home: Communication with family and friends and its association to well-being, Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, Jan. 2021

Looking out for myself: Exploring the relationship between conspiracy mentality, perceived personal risk, and COVID-19 prevention measures, British Journal of Health Psychology, Nov. 2020 

Adolescents’ daily face-to-face and computer-mediated communication: Associations with autonomy and closeness to parents and friends, Developmental Psychology, Jan. 2020

*Disclosure: She’s my great-niece. I have smart relatives.

**The intro/outro is a public domain music file from Igor Khainskyi, “Hawaiian Weekend.” Not me. Not close.