Digitalization of Social Contacts Among University Students in Russia During COVID-19
Keywords:digitalization of social contacts, intensity of social contacts, forms of social contacts, social consequences of COVID-19, depression, International Student Well-being Study, social and mental well-being
Introduction of digital technologies affects different aspects of social life and leads to a gradual shift to digital society. Lockdown measures restricting social contacts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 boosted digital interactions, and these changes primarily concern the youth. The data of the Covid-19 International Student Well-being Study suggest that digital format enabled students to interact with each other during self-isolation. Penetration of digital technologies into life intensified inter-generational, interpersonal and common social interactions. Digital communications helped to reduce the risks of social isolation, to maintain social relationships and to keep the system of social relationships stable during the COVID-19 self-isolation.
Digital contacts are not aimed at replacing personal communication with family, partners or friends or diminishing the intensity of such contacts; instead, they just complement the existing opportunities. Intense communication with the immediate circle in whatever format has a positive impact on individual’s social well-being and mental health and may prevent depression and loneliness sparking positive emotions. On the contrary, excessive social media usage, impersonal form of contacts ending up a failure to develop stable emotional bonds may result in depression and negatively impact student social and emotional well-being.
Digitalization has a dual character: it can expand opportunities for social contacts with the immediate social circle in times of crisis or long-distance communication but heavy use of social media may have negative social and psychological impact.
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