Surge in social media activity during lockdown, finds study

Goa Institute of Management (GIM) faculty recently conducted a research to analyse the public’s reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak

A study was conducted recently by professors Divya Singhal and Padhmanbhan Vijayaraghavan from Goa Institute of Management (GIM), to examine the reactions of Indians towards the COVID-19 outbreak by gauging the psychological response in terms of anxiety and their coping behaviour. The study found that most individuals are more worried over the health of their loved ones than their own well-being.

“A majority of respondents have become conscious of any bodily changes, sensations, mild cold, cough, sneezing, and experience concern and attribute those changes to symptoms of COVID-19,” explains Singhal who is also the chairperson, Centre for Social Sensitivity and Action at the institute.

The survey-based study took into account inputs from 231 respondents residing in various part of the country.

More than 50 per cent of the respondents have reported that their time spent on social media and watching movies/shows online has gone up. Similarly, over 80 per cent of the respondents agree that their technology usage to connect with their friends and relatives has also gone up. But that said, over 50 per cent of respondents feel that reading forwarded messages on COVID-19 is depressing, and an overwhelming majority discourage unverified forwarded messages. It is important to note however that many enjoy receiving, reading, and forwarding humorous messages on social media.

In terms of well-being, 41 per cent have reported that they are not doing any physical activity during the lockdown period and another 19 per cent are unsure about engaging in physical activities. About 57 per cent claim that they are not practising any mind calming practices such as meditation and 18 per cent are not sure about practising any. However, majority have reported that they spent most of the time resting during the lockdown period while 84 per cent have planned on learning something new during this time. About 74 per cent are happy that they have got more time to spend with their family during this period.

Based on this data, the study reveals that this prolonged engagement with social media, watching movies, and continuous rest or sleeping can be viewed as an escape or avoidance-coping mechanism.

Secondly, respondents’ tendency to connect with their friends and relatives as well as spend more time with their family members can be viewed as social support seeking behaviour. Findings from various studies state that social support especially from family acts as strong protective factor for anxiety and reinforcing the belief that support resources are available to them.

Thirdly, respondents have resorted to active coping strategy by discouraging unverified forwarded information on the illness; and also engaging in positive reappraisal of the situation by actively planning to learn something new during the period.

The demographic profile of the respondents shows that 63 percent are male and 37 per cent are female. Majority are in the age group of 18-31 and 32-45 years respectively, only nine per cent are in the age group of 46-51, and higher age groups consists of 16.01 per cent. Out of the total respondents, 60.17 per cent are from non-metro cities and 39.83 per cent are from metro cities. With regards to occupation, 47.62 per cent are employed with private or government sector; 12.55 per cent run their own business, 22.94 per cent are students, and the rest include retired persons and homemakers.

Speaking about the study, Singhal says: “Padhmanbhan and I were on admission-related travel earlier this year. As news on COVID-19 started gaining momentum we realised that we felt a certain degree of vulnerability and worry. This virus has no discrimination of age, gender, education, cast, colour, ethnicity, etc. This research idea stemmed from our personal motivation to know how people were feeling, reacting and coping with the pandemic.”

(The study-related infographics can be accessed on