Social Media apps have taken a new meaning during COVID

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Social Media apps have taken a new meaning during COVID

Oct 26, 2020

In the first week of August, my daily screen time average was 7 hours and 2 minutes, with my top 3 most-used apps being Snapchat, Instagram, and Messages. Trust me, I’m judging myself too.

Thanks to one of Apple’s most recent software updates for all iPhone devices, users are able to see exactly how much time is spent on various social networking, creativity, and productivity apps with “Screen Time.” Of course, living in the year 2020, we’re all already aware of our excessive phone usage. However, seeing a report with a breakdown of how exactly we choose to use our phones throughout the week makes us take our screen addictions a little more seriously, or at least it should. This week, while I’ve been taking my second week of online courses and training for a new job, my daily screen time average was 3 hours and 27 minutes, and my top 3 most-used apps were Messages, TikTok, and Youtube. This daily average is significantly lower than that from earlier this month, when I was unemployed, living at home, and of course following COVID-19 social distancing protocols.

Living in a pandemic and not being able to spend time with friends as often as I’d like has certainly caused me to turn to social media as a means of staying socially up to date. Unfortunately, social media isn’t exactly an accurate representation of how we truly feel on a daily basis, rather an idealized reality we wish to portray to our followers. Even though this is a concept I was fully aware of, I still elected to spend around 7 hours a day on social media apps. Then why did I allow myself to consume this curated reality for nearly a third of my day?

Since the onset of COVID-19 social distancing protocols, social media apps have taken a new meaning for me. Apps like Instagram and Facebook fulfill the role of what would be the in-person group interactions with friends and acquaintances, commenting on appearance, engagements, job offers, and sharing opinions on political and social justice issues. Interpersonal conversations are now executed via apps such as FaceTime or Zoom, however instead of the interactions occurring due to happenstance, these one-on-one conversations are scheduled. Although both the in-person group and interpersonal interactions have been almost seamlessly replaced with social media apps, there still lies an invisible barrier of authenticity between screens that prevents these virtual interactions from perfectly replicating in-person relations.

On the other hand, apps like YouTube and TikTok have become ultimate forms of entertainment for me, almost a way to vicariously live through someone else for a short period of time. While I was living at home over the summer, I found myself watching Youtubers’ old vlogs that were posted before our nation went into quarantine, or videos on TikTok documenting other people’s travels around the globe. Although an absurd amount of time was spent on these two apps, they helped to remind me that my current reality isn’t the current reality. Many parts of daily life and interaction are currently restricted, however they will not remain that way forever.

I’m still not proud of my 7 hour and 2 minute daily screen time average from early August, but I understand why I felt I needed to lean on social media. It just isn’t easy being an extrovert in a global pandemic. Thankfully there are apps to help facilitate missed interactions, even if they don’t live up to the original.

Alexa Birt, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s media law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question: How much time do you spend using social media? Has usage gone up or down since the onset of Covid-19? Why? The class covers copyright and social media. Alexa is a Journalism and Applied Music major.

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