Author Archives: Fariha Hanif

Impact of COVID on relationships

As mentioned in other blog posts and the introduction to this blog, COVID not only has forced many into feelings of grief and loss, but has had a significant impact on various relationships. With limited face to face interaction due to lockdown restrictions put in place by government officials, people were more inclined to join various social media platforms in order to sustain their relationships and decrease feelings of loneliness.

Socializing with others is a fundamental human need, so being deprived of this socialization due to the forced isolation can have many adverse effects. Some of these include the feeling of being rejected by peers, becoming more aware of your individualism, but most importantly, many will feel a loss of a sense of community (Sikali, 2020). A social psychology concept that this can relate to is the need for affiliation. This can be defined as the desire to create and maintain all kinds of social relationships. The need humans possess for affiliation can directly be applied to maintaining relationships during COVID because many people who are breaking government guidelines on social distancing use the fact that we, as humans, are social beings and we have this innate desire to affiliate with others and maintain our interpersonal relationships to justify putting others at risk in order to fulfill that desire.

As a matter of fact, the need for affiliation is so strong, especially during the pandemic, that many who were initially opposed to dating applications have given themselves into trying these platforms. According to Business Insider, the organization Match Group, which owns many of the popular dating apps, have seen drastic increases in the amount of new users who signed up on one of their platforms, as seen in the image below (Meisenzahl, 2020).Through the use of these applications, people who match on these sites are being more exposed to one another than they normally would be if they were trying to date each other in person. Because of this, many find that their relationships formed over the internet are oftentimes stronger than the ones they form in-person. This phenomenon can be explained by the mere exposure effect. This effect shows that the more exposed you are to an individual/stimulus, the more positively you will feel towards that individual/stimulus. This can directly tie into relationships formed during COVID as many have lost their jobs and have more free time on their hands to interact with their friends/family, thus causing them to be more liked by those friends/family and also resulting in them being more liked by their friends/family. This can even be applied to online dating as interactions over the internet are usually much more frequent than those in person, resulting in you being more exposed to a particular individual, which would result in you being more liked by the other individual according to the mere exposure effect. A very notable example of this effect at work is the Kardashians – initially, many people felt that the fame of the family was undeserved, however, by constantly seeing the Kardashians on social media and television, it forced many of those individuals to have a more favorable impression of the Kardashians, seeing them as so much more than the incident that made them famous.

In a peer reviewed study, the correlation between the strength of interpersonal relationships during distressing times (such as COVID and quarantine), researchers found that this pandemic is associated with an improvement in the strength of all kinds of interpersonal relationships, except for intimate ones, where the lockdown restrictions was seen to have no significant effect on the strength of the relationship. The increase in psychological distress due to quarantine had a negative association for improvement in partnerships, but had a positive association for improving relationships with friends and the local community (Goodwin et al., 2020). Although this study was conducted in China and may have different results if this were to be done in America, this is still a great study to reference in order to understand how COVID has impacted interpersonal relationships in different cultures.

The restrictions, though many may have failed to note, have an extremely strong underlying psychological message to fear others. Especially at the start of the pandemic where government officials reinforced numerous times on various news outlets the importance of social distancing and staying at home whenever possible, impressionable youth in particular may now have an irrational fear of being close to individuals because of the profound impact this pandemic has had on social relationships. Focusing more specifically on young children and young adults, social interactions are deemed by many as a basic human need and more specifically, physical contact is a vital part of social interactions; thus, by closing many educational institutions, it’s preventing many young individuals (children, adolescents, and young adults) from socializing with their peers and making quality connections, which would greatly stunt their personal growth as individuals. Many studies have reported countless times that many youth flourishes socially through making connections, which is an essential part of learning and growing as an individual (Sikali, 2020). This, in turn, would no doubt affect the young individuals’ ability to make long lasting relationships with others in the future.

Overall, while social media may have positively affected relationships, it has also caused much strain as many have been forced to transition their relationships online. Social media is a great tool for keeping in touch with individuals when you are physically not allowed to do so, but it is nowhere near as great as the in-person contact that human beings require to survive. Many young adults (in particular) can experience symptoms of mental illnesses as a result of the forced isolation that came about from the restrictions placed during the pandemic to prevent/control the spread of COVID.


  1. Goodwin, R., Hou, W. K., Sun, S., & Ben-Ezra, M. (2020). Quarantine, distress and interpersonal relationships during COVID-19. General psychiatry33(6).
  2. Meisenzahl, M. (2020, August 05). These charts from Match Group show more people are turning to online dating during the pandemic. Retrieved December 18, 2020, from
  3. Sikali K. (2020). The dangers of social distancing: How COVID-19 can reshape our social experience. Journal of community psychology, 10.1002/jcop.22430. Advance online publication.

The role of social media in COVID-19

Social media, on an individual basis, is used for keeping in touch with friends and family. This, however, can be expanded to encompass using social media as a networking tool for career options, finding people across the globe with similar interests, and simply as a means to vent their frustrations/emotions. While these applications are still used for similar purposes today, they are most definitely used more frequently as a result of the forced isolation that came about from the pandemic. People who didn’t enjoy using social media and avoided it at all costs as a method of communication have reluctantly given into trying these platforms to stay in touch with their loved ones. Whether it is via the direct messaging features available on various apps or through posting pictures from their daily lives, people try to depict their lives in the best way possible on these virtual platforms. The way social media has been used prior to and during the pandemic has a strong relationship to the idea of the social self. 

Especially with the pandemic, social media has brought light to another layer of healthcare. Various healthcare providers created public accounts on these social media platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, and etc. to provide information/updates about what is going on with the pandemic, social distancing guidelines, and updates about the vaccine. In a peer reviewed article published prior to COVID, the authors explored the various benefits and risks of being an active user on social media. Some of these benefits include increasing interactions with others, having more accessible information, social support, and having the potential to influence many policies related to health (Moorhead et al., 2013). Many of these healthcare providers whose following blew up during the pandemic have even branched out into making social media a side gig, taking monetary compensation for everything that they post, even collaborating with major companies to encourage people to stay safe and healthy during the pandemic. A good example is the user @lifeofadoctor on Tiktok, whose following grew exponentially after making daily/weekly updates on COVID statistics during the pandemic to encourage his followers to stay home. His following grew so much in that brief period of time that he was among one of the first few creators on TikTok to be a recipient of $1 billion creator fund.

However, the increased use of social media during the pandemic wasn’t completely without faults. It impacted the areas of an individual’s social self and the dynamic between various groups. A social psychology concept that can be applied to the use of social media is the self-discrepancy theory. This theory states that individuals compare their “actual” selves to their “ideal” self and if there are any inconsistencies between the two, it causes immense discomfort in the individual. This can specifically apply to how social media is used as it further encourages people to compare their “actual” selves to their “ideal” selves depicted on platforms. While trying to depict their life in the best way possible, people may start to see themselves in two different ways (their “actual” self in real life versus their “ideal” self-depicted in social media) and because of this, a lot of discomfort may arise within individuals as they may feel a strong urge to be their “ideal” self, but it may not be realistic to the type of lifestyle they currently live. A study conducted in 2006 explored the relationship between self-discrepancy in terms of body image and how this affects participation in social comparison. It found that women who had high levels of self-discrepancy were more likely to compare themselves to others from being exposed to the thin-ideal, and they found that these comparisons can result in self-inflicted negative consequences (Bessenoff, 2006).  This effect may be amplified in teenagers who see the “idealized” view of many of their favorite celebrities/peers and start to believe that everyone is portraying their “actual” selves instead of their “idealized” selves, which can be very damaging to their self-esteem. All influencers, at one point or another, can be accused of doing so. It would be hard to find a celebrity that posts the negative events going on in their lives and not showing a glamorized view of what they do on a daily basis.

This can also tie into how social media is used to boost an individual’s self-esteem as many use social media to depict the highlights of their life, completely neglecting to post the negatives. With this close to ideal depiction of one’s self on social media, it can cause many to comment on how great you look and how great your life is, which can directly affect (and boost) someone’s self-esteem. People depict themselves on social media the way they think they are seen by others or the way they want to be seen, which can be very problematic for the younger generation that are frequenting these platforms, giving them unrealistic expectations of what they should look like and how life is. A good example of this is the supermodel Gigi Hadid – she is rarely found depicting the hardships of motherhood, it was only until recently that she even posted pictures of herself being pregnant. Similarly, another influencer on social media who has a particular presence on there is James Charles. He is mainly seen on Instagram wearing glamorous makeup looks and living a lavish lifestyle, but when the paparazzi catches him, he can be seen without makeup and shows that there is much more to him apart from his makeup looks.

Despite the negative effects that social media may have on self-esteem, it can also be used to enhance one’s own self-image. In a study conducted by Gonzalez and Hancock in 2011, they found that, interestingly enough, increasing the exposure to information on your own Facebook profile can enhance self-esteem, especially when an individual selectively-self presents themselves on the internet (Gonzalez and Hancock, 2011).

Another concept of social psychology that can be applied to the use of social media, especially amongst teenagers, is the Common Ingroup Identity Model that was developed by Gaertner and Dovidio. The model suggests that if members of various groups can recategorize themselves as members of a more superior group, the intergroup relations can drastically improve. This can specifically apply to social media in the sense that people all over the world have various attitudes towards other members of other racial and socioeconomic groups and social media can expose people to others who they would not normally interact with, allowing them to find some common/shared identities with members of the outgroup, which would further initiate the formation of other new, more superior groups that are based primarily on shared interests/beliefs. For example, my brother, being stuck at home, ventured out to different social media platforms where he was exposed to people that he typically did not interact with on a daily basis prior to the pandemic, and actually ended up developing a different perspective on racial minorities as he found many individuals who fit into that group that he shared a common identity with.

Interestingly enough, although many thinks that the increase in the use of social media may be temporary and that once the pandemic is over, the new users would stop using these platforms, eMarketer actually predicts the opposite. Using data collected from the Harris Poll, they found that approximately half of the respondents reported using social media more frequently than they ever had before (seen in image below) and made inferences about how these platforms would be used in the future in a world post-pandemic. Those who, during the pandemic, learned how to use all types of video platform services are more likely to continue doing so even when lockdown restrictions are lifted. Additionally, eMarketer predicts that the amount of time we will spend on messaging platforms will also increase by approximately four minutes. Lastly, they note that US adults will probably spend about seven more minutes a day on social media, but they expect this to decline in 2021 once the pandemic is controlled (Samet, 2020).


Overall, while social media may initially seem like a great way to keep in touch with loved ones while maintaining the social distancing rules across the globe, it can also bring about many negative effects and challenges. People may feel more comfortable behind a phone/computer screen and take advantage of this comfort by cyberbullying their peers and influencers. According to a peer-reviewed study done this year exploring the role of social media during COVID, they found that this comfort may also result in individuals exploiting public opinions and committing other hate crimes that they would not have the courage to do otherwise in person. For example, there are many individuals who comment hateful things on many celebrities’/influencers’ social media accounts, but if they saw the celebrity in person, they would pretend to be a fan. Furthermore, many rely on the Internet for the latest news and updates in the world and social media has started to evolve into sharing information about important current events, but many users on social media can “troll” on the platform by disseminating misinformation. The spread of misinformation can easily result in mass hysteria about current events (Sahni & Sharma, 2020). Lastly, while social media may boost one person’s self-esteem, it may destroy an impressionable individual’s own self-esteem with the hopes of achieving an unattainable reality depicted.


  1. Bessenoff, G. R. (2006). Can the Media Affect Us? Social Comparison, Self-Discrepancy, and the Thin Ideal. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30(3), 239–251.
  2. Gonzales, A. L., & Hancock, J. T. (2011). Mirror, mirror on my Facebook wall: Effects of exposure to Facebook on self-esteem. Cyberpsychology, behavior, and social networking14(1-2), 79-83.
  1. Moorhead SA, Hazlett DE, Harrison L, Carroll JK, Irwin A, Hoving C. A New Dimension of Health Care: Systematic Review of the Uses, Benefits, and Limitations of Social Media for Health Communication. J Med Internet Res 2013;15(4):e85. URL: DOI: 10.2196/jmir.1933. PMID: 23615206. PMCID: PMC3636326
  2. Sahni, H., & Sharma, H. (2020, June 29). Role of social media during the COVID-19 pandemic: Beneficial, destructive, or reconstructive? International Journal of Academic Medicine, 6(2), 70-75.;year=2020;volume=6;issue=2;spage=70;epage=75;aulast=SahniSamet, A. (2020, July 29). How the Coronavirus Is Changing US Social Media Usage. eMarketer.
  3. Samet, A. (2020, July 29). How the Coronavirus Is Changing US Social Media Usage. eMarketer.