The confinement instigated by the Covid-19 pandemic has substantially increased the time that young people and people of all ages spend on social networks and the Internet. While this increase in the number of hours online may raise some concern, new research from the University of California (UC) at Berkeley outlines the benefits of positive interactions even online.
As a context, according to the Digital 2021 report by Hootsuite and We Are Social, in Mexico there are close to 100 million users of social networks in 2021. This represented a growth of 12.4% in the number of Internet users in the country, which remain on average about 9 hours a day, mainly on Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp.
Although the widespread use of networks and the Internet is often associated with socialization problems and feelings of loneliness, “our findings support the hypothesis that how, and not how much, time is spent in front of the screen is the best predictor of well-being and loneliness”. The foregoing, in the words of Lucía Magis-Weinberg, lead author of this study and researcher at the Institute for Human Development at UC Berkeley.
To find out this, a population of 735 adolescents between 11 and 17 years old in Peru was studied for 6 weeks in April 2020. This was during a worsening of the mobility restriction measures decreed in the South American country.
The studied population was subjected to several surveys and asked to rate from 1 to 5 how much they agreed with a particular series of statements. Among these, of the type “I feel valued by people in my networks”, “People in social networks give me advice”, “People in networks make me feel that I do not belong”, among other things.
The young people surveyed also gave information about their devices, habits of preference, as well as their general feeling of well-being. Among the first, the smartphone stood out, followed by the personal computer and video game consoles. Regarding habits, the women in the survey declared preferring networks, messaging services and YouTube; while men reported preferring video games in addition to watching videos on YouTube.
“The report showed that using social media to connect with friends and family and find support can have an impact on well-being. This, rather than just repeatedly scrolling on Instagram and comparing oneself to others and feeling left out,” concluded Maris -Weinberg.
The results of this study undoubtedly require further discussion and a broadening of its scope to consider important cultural differences. However, it can challenge the idea that social media interaction does not bring benefits or real closeness between people. This has been an important concern derived from the new normal and the health crisis, which has forced many to interact exclusively through the virtual.