COVID-19 UK: How social media has affected communication during a pandemic.

Back in March 2020, if I told you I’d be writing a blog on how communication was affected during a worldwide pandemic and through national lockdowns that saw millions of us in the UK forced to stay at home, you wouldn’t believe me. 

Unfortunately that is the reality and I will be assessing how the coronavirus pandemic has affected how we utilise social media particularly here in the UK.

A platform to share and consume information

Never before has this been more essential to have instant, digital communication straight to our device, as people were seeking ways to keep in touch as physical communication became increasingly difficult and illegal in many ways. Such Information helped to inform us on what was and still seems like “the unknown”. We gathered information on how best to protect ourselves and the more vulnerable in society.  However, social media was a breeding ground for misinformation and of course disinformation in a time of widespread panic and uncertainty. People in a panic can be exploited when exposed to misleading information – particularly during a time when no one is really sure what is happening. One conspiracy theory that gained ground over social media that you may remember is the theory that was spread about 5G and how it was harmful in that it helped the spread of coronavirus. Many believed the virus travelled on radio waves and coronavirus was accelerated in speed by the introduction of 5G. It gained so much attention that it caused Michael Gove to officially refute the claims. 

A platform to entertain

Social media has been a source of entertainment for years, but, in particular 2020 was a year when we found more time to ourselves at home and therefore spent more time online. According to Ofcom (2020), Adults spent record 4 hours a day online in April at the height of the pandemic. The social media platform “TikTok” dominated social media during the pandemic – many users made light jokes of the virus, many helped spread (largely useful) information and others (including myself) consumed these videos for hours on end. 

A platform to stay “social”

In a time when social distancing is in place to fight the virus, we stand together on social media to stay connected. Never before did the UK think they would have to talk to their elderly parents over Zoom or have “lockdown quiz nights” on Houseparty with friends.

Social media can often be viewed as a negative platform for users to express hate and a place that we spend too much time browsing. However the pandemic has highlighted the importance of a safe space to create, share and communicate in unprecedented times.

Aveen Moore is a Communication Management and Public Relations final year student at Ulster University. She can be reached at Twitter