Until last month the world seemed fine to many Americans, except China and Italy, where the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) broke out. Little was known about the virus, which would turn into a pandemic in a matter of weeks. It already has changed the way society handles chaos and isolation. The internet has become more popular these days than ever before.
Originally invented for military purposes, and then for communication between scientists, the internet, which made its first appearance in 1965, has changed drastically. Many people in the early to mid-’90s did not have access to it, but by 1995 when American Online (AOL) became the biggest online portal via dial-up, the internet became accessible to most people.
However, after broadband became more popular in the early 2000s, dial-up and AOL declined. The future of not just the internet, but also communication has changed since social networking sites, such as Snapchat and Facebook has made their way to the surface.
These days, social media platforms, such as Twitter, have become the new channel of communication. And not just for regular people, but for political parties. President Donald J. Trump is no stranger to Twitter and shares exactly how he feels about everything going on in the world; COVID-19 is no exception.
According to writer and New York University Journalism Professor Keith Kloor, the internet, especially Twitter, has played a big role since COVID-19 circled around. As an experiment, and to be in a certain “virtual bubble,” Kloor created a fake Twitter account to get insight about what people in power and Trump supporters think of the current COVID-19 pandemic. And surprisingly, many think it’s a hoax and not as serious as the media portrays it. These post by naysayers allow the circulation of false information.
Many political parties seem to come together via Twitter, during the country’s current crisis, as well as in hopes to defeat President Trump in November.
“Initially, we saw COVID-19 politicized and treated like any other topic in the media,” Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Journalism and Print Media Program Frank Percaccio of Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY said in an email. “Now that the issue is much more severe, political leaders appear to be coming together for the common good of all citizens. However, we may see the issue become politicized once again once the initial crisis of the pandemic subsides.”
There is no doubt that going back to the known-normal, is not going to happen. It’s hard to determine what normal will be like in the next few weeks, or months even.
Percaccio believes that the usage of social media has increased since the COVID-19 outbreak, spreading both panic and comfort.
“In some cases, social media does, unfortunately, spread fear, xenophobia, bigotry (especially now against Asian-Americans, and misinformation. But it also has been allowing people to congregate virtually,” Percaccio said. “By doing so, perhaps social media is helping to stave off the feelings of isolation and loneliness that we may encounter during our quarantine period.”
But the way society uses the internet nowadays might also be kinder.
New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose mentioned that he thinks people are using the internet in a more prosocial way.
“I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I think the answer is we need to contribute more. In normal times, we — and I include myself — are much more passive about using the internet,” Roose said in an interview. “There’s some research that shows we’re happier when we use social media actively, rather than passively scrolling.”
The research that Roose is referring to, was conducted by the Facebook research team which tried to answer the question, “Is Social Media Good or Bad for Well-Being?”
According to academics, it depends on how social media is being used. At current times during the pandemic, it’s negative if it’s used in a passive way.
“I am not sure if we will ever go back to normal. I am not even sure what normal means anymore. But I do not think we will exit this crisis unchanged. I believe we will see two things develop post-COVID-19,” Percaccio said. “First, the increased reliance upon the internet for personal, business, and educational purposes is likely to remain, and may even increase. But I think the silver lining here may be that the internet becomes a tool for communication and not a replacement for live, close-proximity interpersonal interaction.
“In other words, I hope that once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and we can gather as we once did, that we recall what the isolation was like and we use the internet for work so that we can have more time for other things, like spending time with those we love. I hope we no longer take for granted the importance of life outside the virtual world, and we see the real value of the important relationships in our lives.”
However, the way individuals use the internet currently – and probably will so in the near future – is quite different. From important business meetings to happy hour gatherings with friends, is being conducted through either Zoom, FaceTime or Skype. Even interviews are now being held via the internet. And working from home is becoming the new normal.
“The paradox of online communication will be ratcheted up,” Professor of linguistics at Georgetown, Deborah Tannen, mentioned in an interview. “It creates more distance, yes, but also more connection, as we communicate more often with people who are physically farther and farther away—and who feel safer to us because of that distance.”
Although the internet gives individuals an escape, it’s hard to ignore the fact that it also creates frenzy feelings and angst. Everywhere across the World Wide Web, lingers a reminder what the entire globe is currently going through a growing pandemic.
Despite the controversy Facebook has been facing since it’s data breach in 2018, it still remains a viable platform that allows fellowship with friends and family all around the world.
The internet has also dealt with a few issues during the pandemic. Due to mass usage around the globe, streaming sites such as Netflix and YouTube had to slow down their streaming or offer lower quality than usual.
But Hollywood and the arts are currently suffering, and many movie productions have been put on hold.
“The entertainment industry will undoubtedly see changes. The industry was already changing some of its business models due to streaming services like Hulu and Netflix,” Percaccio said. “With the change in the business model that does not put film theater distribution as the essential factor, streaming services will begin to draw in content from a wide variety of sources. Streaming entertainment will continue to develop in-house productions, and ultimately rival the studios for the most sought-after content/films.”