In this Research Pick, we are highlighting three papers from the International Journal of Web Based Communities that focus on how social media has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in this time of worldwide crisis.
The first paper discusses how social media and web-based communities in general have responded to the pandemic whereby small groups of worshippers almost overnight converted their usual activities to the online world without much need for intervention from the hierarchy above, as it were. The second offers a personal perspective on the pros and cons, the benefits and challenges of social networking during the pandemic. Finally, the third paper looks at how faith communities have moved online to allow their congregations to continue with their religious endeavours.
The emergence of a novel coronavirus, dubbed SARS-CoV-2, in late 2019 and its subsequent spread around the world leading to the declaration of the disease it causes, COVID-19, as a pandemic led to many changes in the daily lives of billions of people. Of course, there is the ongoing tragedy of those who suffer serious symptoms and in many cases death, and there is also the ongoing problem of so-called Long-covid, symptoms that seem to persist long after the person has stopped being infectious, such as severe fatigue and significant disruption or loss of one’s sense of smell.
The socioeconomic symptoms of this pandemic have seen enormous changes in working practices, closure of many areas of normal life such as entertainment and hospitality, the disruption of sporting events, and more significantly the failure of many companies and enterprises and lost jobs for those affected.
We are yet to fully understand what detrimental impact this disease will have on humanity and at the time of writing, new waves of infections underpinned by new, lethal variants of the disease, are overwhelming healthcare systems in Brazil, India, and elsewhere. Many parts of the world remain in lockdown while others that have escaped the worst ravages so far are keeping a weather eye on their borders in the hope of precluding the spread of a new variant in their country.
The role of social media for the spread of information about COVID-19, vaccination programs, and public awareness of lockdown rules may well have helped reduce the total number of infections and deaths from the earliest and potentially devastating predictions. Moreover, social media and its attendant applications, including video conferencing, have allowed many people to continue their work and maintain family and social connections online in a way that would not be possible without this technology.
There has been a downside to the so-called “new normal” for many, especially those on the wrong side of the digital divide that have no reliable access to the requisite devices and high-speed internet connections needed to make the most of social media and video conferencing and the like. Even for those with access to the necessary tech, the downside of living one’s working life and social life almost exclusively online has exacted a toll on mental health for many people trapped behind a screen and unable to fulfil their old-normal roles in life.
All three papers cited below will appear in IJWBC soon.
Isaias, P., Miranda, P. and Pifano, S. (2021) ‘Framing social media and web-based communities within the COVID-19 pandemic: enduring social isolation and subsequent deconfinement’, Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp.120–134.
Issa, T., Al Jaafari, M., Alqahtani, A.S., Alqahtani, S., Issa, T., Maketo, L. and Pervaiz, S. (2021) ‘Benefits and challenges of social networking during COVID-19: personal perspective’, Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp.135–148.
Cooper, A-P., Jormanainen, I., Shipepe, A. and Sutinen, E. (2021) ‘Faith communities online: Christian churches’ reactions to the COVID-19 outbreak’, Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp.99–119.