News, Culture & Society

Is the Lockdown Changing the Way We Internet?

In a matter of a few months, the internet has become an umbilical to our world. People now depend on it to go to school, do their jobs, and see other people. It’s an imperative source of knowledge and entertainment. And we’re using it a lot.

Since late March, the internet traffic surged by around a quarter in many major cities, according to Cloudflare.  Demand has increased for certain online services in particular. Face-to-face interaction with colleagues, friends, and family alike have been replaced with video calls. More people started using platforms such as Skype and Zoom in the first two months of 2020 than in all of 2019.

With almost all public gatherings called off, people seek entertainment on streaming services like YouTube and Netflix and are looking to connect with one another on social media outlets like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Two years ago, users of these platforms were gradually moving to their smartphones, generating an industrywide focus on “everything mobile.” But with the onset of the pandemic, more and more people are spending time at home, with the internet within reach, Americans seem to be remembering how irksome it can be to squint for minutes, even hours, at those little phone screens.

Netflix, YouTube, and Facebook have all witnessed user numbers on their phone apps fall off or stagnate as their websites have grown, as data from Apptopia and SimilarWeb indicates.

The hike of social distancing calls for new ways to connect, mostly through video chat. 

As traditional social media is booming, it seems that we want to do more than just chat through text and messaging – we need to see one another. A reason enough for apps that used to loiter in absolute obscurities, such as Duo, Google’s video chatting application, and Houseparty, which allows groups to join a private chat together and play games together.

Our interest in the immediate environment has also grown. We are more absorbed in social media platforms that focus on connecting local neighborhoods.

We need more services that allow us to learn and work from home. 

The schools and offices in the US have all moved into our living rooms or basements. Nothing seems to have a more profound impact on online usability than this change. Meetings are all happening on Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts, while school assignments are being shared on Google Classroom. The rush for these services, however, has brought new looks into our privacy practices. 

Stay at home entertainment: still booming. 

Cloud services let companies like Dropbox and Netflix scale up their operations quickly. As demand spikes, extra servers from the pool are linked into use. Most internet services use dedicated cloud platforms, while the biggest are already running their own data centers to gain more flexibility and meet various users’ needs. On the other hand, with all major-league games canceled, there haven’t been many sports to devour beyond games and slots at LeoVegas casinos and an occasional soccer match.

Meanwhile, several video game websites have had surges in traffic, as have platforms that allow you to watch other people play. Streaming platforms like Twitch has become a leading site for streaming gameplay, with traffic reaching 20 percent. TikTok, a mobile app jam-packed with lip-syncing and short clips of pranks, was taking off before the coronavirus onset, and it has continued its string ascent ever since.

According to data, online casino searches seem to be at an “all-time high” since the lockdown began. For problem gamblers, the lockdown was the perfect recipe for disaster while for novice players, an ideal escape from boredom. As research shows, there had been an upsurge in some online gambling, but there was no evidence yet of a rise in problem gambling.

The overall drop in the gambling industry has not stopped customers from paying attention to poker, online slots, online LeoVegas casino gaming, and virtual sports. Engaged players are also spending more money and time during the lockdown, as the data show.

Both social media and gaming offer valuable social engagement and provide a temporary escape from real life. During the lockdown, many media outlets have reported their utility, and they have reasons to do so. Major game distributors, such as Steam, report a significant increase in daily users’ numbers over the past few months.

Are there any risks? As research has shown, for children, the impact of screen-time on well-being and mental health is fairly small. On the other hand, factors like parental support, adverse childhood experiences, or family relationships are more impactful than screen-time.

Adults and kids alike are turning to social media for comfort. 

Social media has long been under our attention for its impact on consumers’ well-being. This time in 2019, we found that 29 percent in the US and 23 percent in the UK felt social media hit their well-being negatively. But purposely avoiding Instagram or Facebook while being locked indoors has not been an easy feat, with social media platforms proving crucial in keeping people connected during the crisis.

The platforms people were trying to avoid turned out to be vital for mental health, in helping to battle prevailing feelings of loneliness stemming from extensive periods of social distancing and isolation.

According to GWI, 57 percent of users say social media has helped them feel less isolated during the outbreak, while under half consider it’s also contributed positively when it comes to anxiety and stress. What’s more, those worried about the time they spend online have actually derived the advantages of visiting social media platforms at this time.

Early digital detoxers are more likely than other social media users to find social media helpful in tackling anxiety and loneliness during the pandemic. They felt less pressured to display an unrealistic image of their life on social media as everyone is now in the same boat. With the right circumstances and the right tools, the internet can be a boon to those who are struggling.