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Online Trends

Published October 27th 2020

Covid-19: How Social Media Habits Are Changing

The pandemic has encouraged more of us to think about our social media habits and how they affect our lives. We checked out how consumers are feeling on the issue using Brandwatch Consumer Research.

Doomscrolling, boredom, connection, inspiration, entertainment. These are just a few reasons people felt the urge to go online in 2020 during the pandemic.

But with more people going online for longer periods of time, how do they feel about it? The React team set out to investigate.

Fatigue is growing on social media

Brandwatch’s 2020 consumer tech report found that many are thinking hard about the time they spend using their devices. Our October Brandwatch Qriously survey of 7,478 people across US, Mexico, France, UK, Spain, Germany, Australia, and Singapore, found 14% of global respondents wanted to reduce their use of technology. That number increased to 18% for people aged 18-36.

This was echoed by social media.

Using our Consumer Research platform, we studied English-language mentions relating to time spent online from January 1 2014 to October 31 2020.

We found that fatigue had grown online around social media and specific apps. Mentions of social media fatigue (e.g. being bored, tired, or exhausted with it) increased 41% in the last 10 months compared to the 10 months prior.

These stats tell us that while we might be using technology more, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re enjoying the experience, and people are beginning to re-evaluate their device usage.

Social media can’t stop interacting

We also noticed the amount of people discussing how addicted they are to social media and apps has increased by 48% in the last 10 months compared to the 10 months prior.

It was partly boredom that had our thumbs scrolling through social media feeds (1k mentions), but news (2k mentions) and connection with other people through trends and apps also played a part (29k mentions) from January 1 to October 31 2020.

This goes to show that people saying they’re addicted to social media can have mixed meanings – while some recognize that they’re time wasting, others are celebrating what they’re learning and the connections they’re making.

Two really notable apps popping up in this conversation were TikTok and Houseparty. Both rose to stardom just when we needed them, back in March and April, respectively.

Across social media, we found 45k mentions from people discussing their Tiktok addiction and 3k from people who had found their calling on Houseparty.

On a more serious note, we found that people have been more conscious of their screen time and habits on social media this year. In the last ten months we found 13k mentions of people monitoring their social media usage in addiction conversations, an increase of 23% compared to the same period in 2019.


Doomscrolling was affectionately coined in March to describe the unrelenting need to consume an endless procession of negative online news, as the pandemic began to rage around the world.

When we checked out English-language mentions of the term on social media using our Consumer Research platform, we found 144k mentions of it from January 1 to November 8 2020.

Recently, usage has hit a new high. We found 45k mentions from people admitting that they were guilty of doomscrolling in the first week of November.

In fact, it was in part thanks to the US election that the term became so widely used. US politics was a huge driver in conversations about doomscrolling on social media, with 18k mentions of the election, Biden, and Trump alongside the term between June 1 and November 8 2020.

Unsurprisingly, that conversation reached a peak last week (12k mentions) as the world waited for the big election result.

Ultimately, doomscrolling conversation on social media really focused on the unhealthiness of the habit. Between March 1 and November 8 2020 we found 62k mentions about quitting doomscrolling.

We also found that the conversation focused on how droomscrolling affected wellbeing:

  • Exacerbated stress levels – 3k mentions
  • Heightened anxiety – 5k mentions
  • Lack of focus and hindered productivity – 6k mentions

Quitting social media for clarity

With the year being as divisive as it has been, some folks are contemplating deleting their social media accounts entirely, or just certain apps, to restore some calm in their lives.

In fact, discussion about deleting social apps or social media entirely increased by 22% in the last 10 months compared to the 10 months prior.

That’s a huge difference. Reasons cited included politics (42k mentions), censorship (57k mentions), feeling overwhelmed (63k mentions), and mental health (137k mentions). It all feels relevant to 2020.

The pandemic has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, including our presence online and interaction with social media. We want to stay connected and in the loop in these turbulent times, but that can be hard with the constant barrage of bad news.

How this translates into action remains to be seen.

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