In Staying connected while physically apart: Digital communication when face-to-face interactions are limited, Nguyen et. al argue that how socially connected you feel to others is affected by what type of digital communication you are using. Specifically, the authors show the implications of the COVID-19 lockdown on digital communications by analyzing the varying feelings of social connection felt by individuals.
Nguyen et. al show that there was an increase in digital communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors collected data through surveying U.S. adults on their digital communication patterns/experiences and analyzed their levels of social connection during a time of extreme physical distancing. The type of digital communication was differentiated between high social presence (i.e. a voice call) and low social presence (i.e. communicating through video games or social media). Nguyen et. al argue that the data, “suggests that higher social presence media may be more important in building social connectedness from digital communication compared to lower social presence media,” (12). This discovery is in line with the social presence theory, which is the belief that digital media platforms differ in how they are able to present social cues (3). Moreover, it was found that there was a negative relationship between perceived social connectedness and the amount of times one communicated over a lower social presence media platform. The researchers did note that they were not able to draw causal connections due to the cross-sectional nature of the data. Overall, the authors argue that it is important to study and analyze the variations in behaviors and social connectedness when looking at digital communication platforms.
The arguments presented were valid as they used the data to clearly present the difference of social connections that differed for high and low social presence communications. Furthermore, the authors were clear about their limitations, which increased the validity of the study. For example, the authors stated that a limitation of their study was that they did not differentiate between any of the social media platforms in their surveys. This is a limitation and could alter the results of the study as people interact differently on each social media platform. The authors made an interesting note about a possibility of digital communications eliciting negative feelings during the lockdown. The quote was: “While it is plausible that people turned to digital communication to make up for feelings of reduced connectedness, it is also possible that some might have felt more socially isolated after such digital interactions as relying on digital communication more than usual can lead to realizations of what people are missing from in-person interactions,” (17). This was fascinating to think about because I have definitely left Zooms before feeling more disconnected from my peers and family since we would have been in-person if it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic. Future studies of potential phenomena like the aforementioned one regarding higher feelings of social disconnection while trying to actually socially connect would be interesting to engage with. Overall, this study was interesting, well thought out, and thought provoking regarding digital communications during the COVID-19 lockdown.
2 thoughts on “9/9 – Staying connected while physically apart: Digital communication when face-to-face interactions are limited”
Hi Megan! I also read this article, and I agree with your perspective. I found the notion that we could feel even more disconnected after virtual interactions thought provoking as well. In my post, I talked about why isolation was challenging even when I was speaking to family and friends everyday. I believe Nguyen may have explained that phenomenon I experienced. Digital interactions can only offer us so much.
Digital communication might be limited since some strong emotions cannot be expressed throughly. However, it definitely helps many people to sustain the difficult period of times. I have friends who did not come back to their hometown during the pandemic, and they may separate from their families for almost two years. Digital communication helps them a lot to connect with their family members, and we can’t imagine the situation without the digital communication.