2020 was intense and stressful for millions of people as the coronavirus pandemic swept through the country. March 2020 saw the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic response, with the entire country reducing commerce and ordering residents to stay at home. This meant no going to work, no visiting friends and relatives, and minimizing time on essential chores, such as grocery shopping.
People’s mental health relies on social support from family, friends and communities, so being separated from them long term only added to the effects of the outbreak. While it wasn’t the first health crisis in the United States, COVID influenced how we socialize, and Internet usage increases compensated for many social interactions we take for granted.
The most obvious change to socializing that came with social distancing was from the lockdowns that were mandated all over the country. Businesses that didn’t cater to everyday needs, including restaurants, entertainment venues, malls, and attractions, closed their doors for weeks or months. However, some commerce had to be maintained, and kids had to finish the school year.
Remote work and online education both had traction before COVID, but the pandemic made these a matter of business continuity. Working from home became “the new normal,” with employees connecting to work remotely. Any business that could keep its employees working without coming to the office equipped them with virtual network access to company networks.
Meanwhile, kids from grade school to college had to finish the 2020 school year outside of the classroom. A vast majority of colleges and universities already had online programs and the platforms to support them, but even in-person classes had to move online. Grade schools found online classrooms such as Blackboard to connect with students.
Family is our very first form of social support. As children learning about the world around us, it is our family that is there to encourage us, catch us when we fall, and cheer our victories. One of the effects of COVID on Internet use was the inability to see family face to face as a result of social distancing.
Resourceful families turned to video conferencing. Zoom allows large groups to gather for a limited time for free, and for longer periods when paid for. Other services, such as Skype and Discord, also allow multiple people to video chat at once.
2020 saw a lot of family reunions online. Some of these families had never had a reunion before social media and social distancing. Families might be scattered all over the country and even the world. The pandemic showed us that we could be with them, even when distance separates us.
Singles are singles, whether they meet in a club, a gym, a bar or online. Social distancing closed many of these venues, leaving singles home alone, with their Internet connections as their only window to the rest of the world. It was natural that dating would move online, since a lot of other social interactions did. Many of today’s singles grew up with the Internet, so why not turn to it now?
A global pandemic might not seem like an opportune time for romance. The stresses of dealing with the virus and the separation from social distancing were heightened by concerns about jobs and finances. Staying home wasn’t a choice, because most businesses were closed and going out discouraged. Yet it is natural for people to want to reach out to others that share their values and interests.
Online dating was already making matches before the coronavirus outbreak. Almost 40% of couples today met online. Dating sites like Match.com and OKCupid are more popular than ever, and staying home meant dating could be done in pajamas and bunny slippers.
In some ways, this takes a lot of the pressure from dating, because people can be themselves. For many, online dating during the pandemic has led to more meaningful relationships as couples delve more deeply into each other’s personalities than ever before.
Work, school, family and romance all provide natural settings to socialize, but not everyone is searching to socialize in these specific ways. Sometimes, people just want to talk to others about things they like.
Various social media platforms, such as Facebook and Reddit, have groups for people with common interests. Do you like a specific comic book or movie? Do you want to talk about your pandemic-era Crossfit progress or your chainmail-making hobby? Chances are, there is an online group for you to talk about your interest with other enthusiasts.
Some groups even exist just to talk. With no specific topic, or a broad range of topics, these groups can introduce users to new ideas and people through social interaction. The people on the other end of the computer are humans, too, and strong friendships can be formed online from mutual interests.
Online video games such as MMOs also filled this need while giving participants something to do. Many popular multiplayer games, such as World of Warcraft, offered free perks and leveling events during social distancing mandates. Individuals used the games as platforms to throw parties and use their characters as substitutes for in-person contact.
Even if your new best friend isn’t in your latest Facebook group about horror movies, getting to talk about them and other interests with people who enjoy them is very satisfying to the social side of being human.
During previous pandemics, such as the Spanish Flu, we didn’t have the technologies we do today. Even telephones were uncommon and television unheard of. This meant that staying home meant no work, no school, no courtship and no socializing.
The impact on online interaction showed us how important Internet access is to everyday life, especially when life takes a turn like a global health crisis. COVID taught us a lot of lessons about how connected our world can be even when we can’t meet face to face, and gave us a glimpse of how the Internet can be used post-pandemic.
Staying connected means having fast, reliable Internet service. Even if you already have service, it’s good to know what’s available in your area. Shop for Internet or compare your plan by giving us your zip code here or calling 1-833-933-2468 today!