Active use of social media will be a lifeline for people coping with social isolation during the COVID-19 crisis, says the British Psychological Society’s Cyberpsychology Section.
Cyberpsychology expert Dr Lisa Orchard has shared tips on how to get the most out of social media during the COVID-19 outbreak. She says that interacting with other people is hugely important for our well-being, so social distancing and isolation will be tremendously difficult for many.
‘While there can be dangers in social media, it’s going to play a vital role in helping people stay connected.
‘Research suggests active social media use is better for you than passive use, so consider writing a blog or posting status updates as a way of expressing yourself. And it may help to organise virtual meetups with friends and family. These needn’t be limited to chatting: They can take part in group activities like watching films or cooking together.’
Useful tips for using social media during COVID-19 include:
- Take the time to look at how you are using social media. Are you overwhelmed by the news or does discussing it give you a sense that you are part of a community and not alone in feeling the way you do? If you are overwhelmed, it may be a good idea to limit how long you spend online.
- Be critical of what you see and post. The volume of discussion of COVID-19 makes it hard to find accurate information. Fake news can be difficult to spot – don’t rely on the number of likes or comments a post has as an index of its value. It’s best to follow verified official accounts to ensure information is accurate. Be wary of sharing information if you are not sure of its validity.
- Be on alert for cybercrime. Crime rates often rise in times of crisis and recent news reports suggest the COVID-19 crisis is seeing an increase in cybercrime. The uncertainty and the way we have become isolated may make us more vulnerable. The National Cyber Security Centre has a wealth of resources to help you be on your guard. Follow it on social media for updates and tips.
- Use hashtags and follow wisely. We cannot control what others post, but we can control who we follow and who we block. If you find your newsfeed is dominated by discussions of COVID-19, follow hashtags related to your hobbies or interests as a distraction. Hashtags and groups can be used to find people with similar interests, which provides a sense of belonging if you are feeling isolated.
- Look for the positives. Social media often gets a bad name, but it can promote acts of altruism. Recent days have seen stories of people sharing scarce supplies and creating online support groups to look out for vulnerable neighbours. You may find it helpful to seek out this type of content to balance more negative stories.
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