The University of Southampton

Healthy balance of social media and physical interactions endorsed during mounting COVID-19 restrictions

Published: 29 September 2020
Overuse of social media can have a detrimental effect on physical and emotional wellbeing

A human performance expert from the University of Southampton is urging the public to balance social media with other more challenging, but ultimately more satisfying forms of communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Writing in The Conversation, Electronics and Computer Science's Professor m.c. schraefel warned that an overreliance on social media can have a detrimental effect on overall health and mental stability.

"As we continue to adapt to the various restrictions, we should remember that social media is the refined sugar of social interaction," she says. "In the same way that producing a bowl of white granules means removing minerals and vitamins from the sugarcane plant, social media strips out many valuable and sometimes necessarily challenging parts of 'whole' human communication."

Government rules are shaping acceptable forms of physical social engagement as confirmed cases of the virus rise across UK and the use of social media and other online tools is expected to rise to bridge the gap.

"We are wired to deal with every aspect of physically present personal contact - from the uncomfortable conversations to the hugely gratifying exchanges," Professor schraefel says. "We suffer without it."

Professor schraefel underlines the importance of designing virtual methods of communication that embrace more of the physiology of social contact that people need and help them thrive.

Her latest work as part of the UKRI COVID-19 research response with the AutoTrust project is seeing how more signals can be incorporated to enable better engagement and creativity in virtual teams. Participants are invited to sign up for the Make Virtual Teams Better Study.

Read Professor schraefel’s full article in The Conversation.

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