NORFOLK, Va. - Virtual has become the new reality for many living through the COVID-19 pandemic.
With stay-at-home orders, businesses closed, sporting events canceled and large gatherings prohibited, many people have turned to the internet and social media to maintain a sense of community.
Dr. Brendan O'Hallarn is a lecturer in the Communication & Theatre Arts Department at Old Dominion University.
He's been studying the impacts social media on creating a feeling of being connected to others, especially around common interests.
“I first noticed the magic that could happen with a group event during the Olympics in London in 2012. There were a whole bunch of people, myself included, frustrated with the broadcast coverage, and we found each other on Twitter and shared jokes back and forth.”
O'Hallarn says he's noticed similar trends during the current pandemic.
“We’re all doing things together because none of us can do anything else right now. We’re trapped, we’re on our own, so the opportunity for impromptu gatherings has increased exponentially.”
While social media can often get a bad rap, O'Hallarn says the current situation has fostered greater creativity and he sees the "good stuff" get more attention.
“When there’s genuine moments of goodness, sharing of happiness and joy, those are the things that are really resonating. Everyday people doing cool things, sharing cool things, there’s a real neat connection happening constantly.”