New research from Temple University faculty member Jason Thatcher speculates about how our social media activity has changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic
PHILADELPHIA, April 1, 2021 — It wasn’t long ago that it was common practice to post a photo on social media of yourself out with friends at a restaurant.
Today, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, not so much.
Yet while those types of posts may no longer be the norm, we’re actually spending more time on social media than ever before. A recent survey shows social media consumption (72%) and posting (43%) have both increased significantly during the pandemic. The difference is, according to Jason Thatcher, that the nature of our posting has changed.
Published in the Dec. 2020 issue of the International Journal of Information Management, “Inside out and outside in: How the COVID-19 pandemic affects self-disclosure on social media” explores the ways in which social media usage has changed over the last several months. The piece was co-authored by Thatcher, the Milton F. Stauffer Professor of Management Information Systems at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, as well as Teagen Nabity-Grover from Boise State University and Christy M.K. Cheung from Hong Kong Baptist University.
“It was always normal for people to post a lot of pictures of themselves dining out, visiting exotic locations or traveling, but the things that we routinely did in normal life would now be shamed,” says Thatcher.
Prior to the pandemic, folks also seemed more hesitant to post content that relates to health. That changed now too.
“On the other hand, it has become more common to discuss one’s health status and preventive behaviors (e.g. wearing masks, buying sanitizing products); sharing such information is now regarded as responsible and socially acceptable behavior because it contributes to the public good. This results in some individuals being mindful of providing health updates or tips on how to navigate the pandemic,” Thatcher says.
We’re seeing this trend continue right now as more and more social media users are posting pictures of their COVID-19 vaccine cards.
Thatcher and his colleagues argue that the pandemic has made people more aware of the impact of social media self disclosure, particularly when it pertains to their personal health, how their behavior impacts others and how their views about health and protective behaviors are perceived by others.
In other words, prior to the pandemic, one of the best ways to get engagement and generate likes was by posting photos at restaurants or while traveling. Now, that same engagement can be had by posting personal health updates.
The study, which has been cited nearly 40 times in other scholarly journals, offers just a beginning look at this trend, but Thatcher hopes additional researchers continue to explore just how social media has changed in the wake of the pandemic.
“What we did was drop an anchor,” Thatcher says. “This was something that we’ve noticed and we thought it was interesting, so we’re hoping that other people go and take a closer look at the topic too.”
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