COVID-19 could affect more than just the college experience of students, it could impact their media consumption and psychological health.
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, researchers have been studying the relationship between media consumption and student behavior. The general consensus among researchers was that student anxiety and depression levels increased with media consumption, especially social media.
A recent study by Virginia Pressly of the University of Southern Mississippi provides data that supports this consensus. Before the pandemic, the study concluded that more than 50% of students were already spending three to four hours on social media. Pressly determined that the added stress caused by the pandemic had caused students to turn to social media, and that more than half of the 78 respondents said they had spent six to seven hours on social media since the start of the pandemic. .
In addition, the Pressly study explains that the increased use of social media also led to an increase in negative psychological effects. Pressly’s data showed that the majority of the students who responded had an increase in stress of around 41% and anxiety of around 34%.
Pressly’s study, among others, sheds light on a persistent problem since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health problems are peaking for all age groups. The CDC released reports indicating that 40% of American adults struggled with mental health or substance abuse issues in 2020.
Brett Sherrick, professor of communications at Purdue, said it was important to recognize that while social media can have negative effects, there is always more to be said.
“They definitely have negative effects,” Sherrick said. “They have positive effects (and) they have neutral effects. So it’s probably important to ask what the content looks like (and) what the interaction looks like. “
“It’s a bit of a mixed bag.”
Sherrick then gave examples of how social media can actually benefit students during the pandemic.
“People are motivated to somehow improve their own well-being now, that doesn’t mean that others, in specific cases, aren’t seeing negative effects,” Sherrick said. “The social and physical distancing of the past year and a half has shown that social media can bring us a lot of benefits if we use it appropriately.”
Josh Martin, a specialist in mass communication, said he feels extra stress about the hostility and false information that can be spread on social media.
“You read it constantly even though you say to yourself, ‘It’s bigger than me, I’m not going to worry about it this second.’ It will always eat you up, I think, ”Martin said. “It weighed heavily on me personally. “