Beginning in January 2020 the world experienced something we have not seen since the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak. For the most part we had become comfortable with the idea that modern medicine could keep the population of the world healthy.
However, COVID 19 spread like wildfire, hopping from continent to continent via world travelers who were unaware they were carrying a virus. The chaos that began to ensue in the wake of the initial spread was soon calmed. However, the changes this pandemic brought about would leave indelible imprints on our memories.
Nations all around the globe began instituting incredibly strict mandates regarding travel, the wearing of masks, and in some cases restricted citizens to staying inside their homes. Even within the United States we saw governors, mayors and other politicians pass ordinances and bills restricting the movement of citizens.
This was all done in an attempt to limit face to face interactions and staunch the spread of the virus that was sweeping across the planet. However, all of these lockdowns also had another much darker effect.
As people went into lockdown mode, not leaving their homes for months in some cases, mental health became an issue. Portions of society already at high risk for mental health related issues found themselves cut off from human interaction.
Humans are sociable creatures. We thrive on interaction with each other as a means of coping with the day to day stress of survival. We congregate for many different types of gatherings in an effort to mingle with each other. Weddings, funerals, birthdays, weekend barbecues, and family vacations are just a few ways we strengthen our social bonds with other humans.
When all of these events were suddenly restricted or stopped altogether, the human race found itself staring at an empty abyss of loneliness.
How Technology Helped During A Pandemic
However, there was one bright light that helped families and friends stay connected throughout the pandemic. Social media has become a major part of most of the world's daily life over the last two decades. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms have become focus points for people to share their opinions and photographs with other people.
Video communication platforms, such as Facebook's messenger and Zoom, became a means for families to stay connected by hosting family video chats and meetings. Aside from families, the workplace also took part in a paradigm shift that led to millions of people working directly from home via their computers. Zoom, Discord and other voice and video communication apps saw huge increases in the number of active users.
These increased numbers indicated one important fact - humans NEED social interaction with each other to maintain their mental health. When that interaction was limited due to health risks, the human race sought another way to interact and survive. We found that solution in technology.
While most people think of community as their neighbors on the block, or the town they live in, that word has taken on a whole new definition in a post pandemic world. Streaming services like Twitch.tv saw a dramatic increase in the number of content creators on its platform who were sharing their daily life in a live stream video format.
Millions of people flocked to these streaming services to share their own experiences, or simply to watch the experiences of others in an effort to maintain a sense of normalcy. Content creators suddenly found themselves with a community made up of people who liked the same things they did, and friendships began to be formed in a whole new way.
Gaming content creators grew exponentially during the pandemic, as people who liked the same genres of games began to gather and create communities. The friendships created through these platforms are just as real as friendships created through face to face encounters in a local setting.
The relationships are also equally important to the people involved in them as face to face relationships. In a report from Ohio Wesleyan University, Assistant Professor of Psychology Kira Bailey, writes that "there's nothing virtual about online connections." She states that websites like eHarmony provide a real and solid platform for building relationships.
In fact, nearly 40% of all dating relationships take place in an online setting in modern times. While some may write this off as being unimportant, the numbers do not lie. The current national average divorce rate is around 50%. However, the divorce rate among couples who met on eHarmony is just 4%.
During the pandemic the world began to look for ways to stay connected. Social media platforms, streaming services, and dating platforms provided this connection. Had it not been for modern technology, we most likely would have seen a much higher spike in mental health related illnesses.
In short, technology helped keep the world sane during one of the worst pandemics any of us have ever seen in our lifetime.