Social media pushes productivity during COVID-19

Temple students and a Philly psychologist discuss how social media is influencing people during quarantine.


Senior Spanish major Tynecia Wilson, like other Temple students, has been faced with the daily difficulties of navigating quarantine. 

While she’s seen social media users strive for superhuman productivity, Wilson has opted to see this time at home as an opportunity to learn new things but is careful not to overwhelm herself. 

“You’re just in the house like you have to do something with that time,” Wilson said. “But it could be anything.”

Wilson has been using this time to create and edit dance videos as well as work on promoting her hairstyling business, Slayy Byy Tayy.

Due to stay-at-home orders, screen time for iPhone users has skyrocketed since the outbreak of COVID-19, The Washington Post reported. In the case of some individuals, daily screen time has increased from three and a half hours to more than eight, the Post further reported.

With increased time online comes increased anxiety as well as pressure towards productivity, said Stephanie Heck, a Philadelphia-based psychologist. 

“There’s this feeling of boundary-lessness like people don’t know what day it is, you don’t have the same kind of structure of a workweek so that you go to work, you’re productive, you go home, and then your family time starts,” Heck said. “So like now it’s sort of like this big amorphous, timeless space where people could just be working 24/7.”

In March, there has been an increase in symptoms for those suffering from anxiety and depression, TIME magazine reported. Online therapy service Talkspace noticed a 65-percent increase in user activity for both new and old patients since February, TIME further reported. 

“I feel personally more tired than I usually am,” Heck added. “Even though I feel like in some ways I’m doing less. I think it’s really tiring, especially when you’re under stress.” 

With a greater amount of time on people’s hands, Heck said she has noticed an increased push toward productivity online, typically on social media. 

The Huffington Post presented two viral tweets that represent the push toward extreme productivity, comparing the people of 2020 going through a global pandemic to creative geniuses of the past. 

But Heck said that this does not have to be the norm. 

“Everyone’s situations are different and we’re all configured differently in terms of our own psychologies and what we need is different, and you can know where you are and honor that and try to move through it in the healthiest possible way,” Heck said. “But it doesn’t mean that you have to be functioning at this highly self-actualized level during a crisis.”

Gina Galm, a sophomore biology major, has noticed this push for productivity, specifically the pressure toward exercise and other physical activity. However, she said she sees it from a perspective of unity. 

“Whether it’s the memes or whether it’s the exercise or positive mental health posts, it’s like, we’re all kind of looking out for each other right now,” she added. “I think like it’s a time that we really need not be divided and need to come together.”

Galm emphasized the importance of taking breaks from social media.

“Just take a break if you see something that upsets you, walk away from the thing that upsets you,” Galm said. “Go outside and take a walk, or do a craft, or if you have a hobby, play guitar, knit, just take your mind and move somewhere else. Walk away from that post, walk away from that social media, it is not healthy to keep staring at that.”

Seeing someone else’s form of productivity does not mean that you need to live up to the same standards, Heck added

“Social media isn’t a social mandate, it’s not dictated,” she said. “It’s a matter of stepping back and getting some perspective. You know the person who’s posting that, that might be their way. But that doesn’t have to mean it’s your way.”

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