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The Rise of the Internet Over Lockdown

The Rise of the Internet Over Lockdown
By news reporter Eleanor Clavin
The internet has served as a wonderful distraction during the coronavirus pandemic with the majority of people turning to the online world in some way to alleviate boredom, stress and loneliness. It is no surprise, therefore, that according to Ofcom, UK adults are spending over a quarter of their day online: the highest on record to date.

Perhaps what makes the internet world so appealing is that it provides a glimpse into normal life. We can continue to educate ourselves, stay active and socialise all through the safety of a screen. Looking comparatively at the 1918 influenza pandemic, it is easy to see why we should be grateful for internet access.

Consumption of creative and educational content has boomed across social media. In particular, TikTok has evolved to become one of the biggest social media platforms gaining nearly seven million UK users over the first lockdown. Additionally, video call services have grown enormously by playing a key role in helping to alleviate loneliness and enabling people to continue work from home. Zoom has seen a 2000% increase in users, growing from 659,000 to 13 million UK adults between January and April 2020. These platforms have become key in replacing our usual daily activities.

Use of the internet can be a wonderful thing, providing a resource for bringing people together and boosting morale. Throughout lockdown, the internet has proven to be a force for good: Army veteran Tom Moore raised £4 million for the NHS by live streaming 100 laps of his garden, Twitch hosted a Livestream music event to raise money in the fight against coronavirus and millions of children have been able to continue their education via online learning at such a vital time in their lives.

Perhaps most importantly, the internet provides a safe space for vulnerable people trapped at home. Domestic abuse prevention charity Hestia has launched an online safe space where people are able to access resources and advice if they are at risk. If a company partners with Hestia, links to help will be available from their website and won't show in internet history. Hestia had 1400 safe space visits in December 2020 alone, having only launched in September. In many ways, the internet can provide individuals with hope and even save lives.

However, having infinite platforms to learn, create and share content doesn’t come without its faults. Sometimes, the internet can feel particularly lonely despite connecting millions of people. In many ways, the rise of social media encourages quantity of relationships rather than quality as people compete for followers and likes. Having a constant insight into the lives of others means that we often find ourselves comparing our lives to that of others and searching for approval of how we spend our time. With a greater amount of time spent at home, there is an overwhelming online pressure to use each hour productively: get fit, start a business or learn a new language.

The internet is hugely competitive, showcasing snapshots of seemingly happy productive people. It is important to remember that the pandemic affects everyone differently and it’s okay to live day to day without making ten batches of banana bread, going for a hike and recreating the Mona Lisa. Feeling worried and lacking motivation is perfectly reasonable given the circumstances and comparison should be heavily avoided.

The key to online use is balance and maintaining mental health. The internet is a wonderful ever-expanding resource but taking a break and living in the real world is equally as important too.

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