With the start of the pandemic, people were forced to shift their entire lives online. From family get togethers to work meetings to comedy shows, the internet became the new social space.
While ‘essential’ workers and other industries, such as service work or warehouse work, never went online like many 9 to 5 office jobs, they still faced businesses closing early, socially distanced spaces, and friends who could isolate.
As a result, people are generally more distant in America than they were a few years ago.
Understanding the effects of the pandemic will be on-going, and, to some, the pandemic isn’t over.
Most places have shifted to mask-optional policies. In more rural areas, the residents have been enjoying mask-free living for months.
In Atlanta, people have taken on the new freedom to gather inside as a chance in droves. Nightlife scenes that were near empty or completely shut down now are flooded with mask-less bodies.
Many people at these spaces say they are simply tired of not being around friends. Some are re-uniting after spending years apart.
The Pew Research Center found that, pre-pandemic, 51% of people living with their partners said their partner was using their phone when they were talking, and 40% said the amount of time their partner was on the phone bothered them.
This study doesn’t even consider partners who are not living together and those who are perhaps dating around.
Due to the pandemic, Americans have effectively been forced to find digital intimacy. Digital intimacy seems to be ineffective. Studies find that social media has to potential to both weaken and strengthen relationships.
For relationships, romantic or not, that are already strong and rich with affection, social media acts as another dimension through which to express love and to engage with loved ones.
For others, though, social media can intensify the sense of distance. Even worse, it can brew jealously.
According to Atlanta locals, there is an even split on whether they have been able to find intimacy online.
Despite it being hit or miss, the options in apps is massive. Any smartphone user can pick between Tinder or Her or Hinge.
If looking for a broader range for socializing, they have platforms like Twitter or Instagram or TikTok.
As we transition back to in-person interactions, we are entering a new gray-area. Who emerges the pandemic more attached to their phone than ever, and who emerges sick of screen-time?