Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Maintaining positive social media interactions during COVID-19

Image of soldier looking at his cell phone Although a great communication tool with friends and family, service members need to be mindful of the pitfalls of social media. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Austin Shaffner.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

As the Department of the Air Force's chief of chaplains, Maj. Gen. Steve Schaick has seen firsthand the power of social media to forge connections during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, airmen have signed onto Facebook Live events in increasingly higher numbers, said Schaick, who's also a chaplain. Participation has been so strong that the Air Force likely will continue to incorporate aspects of social media into religious outreach efforts even after physical distancing restrictions are lifted.

But sometimes, Schaick said, nothing beats IRL – in real life.

"I think social media is kind of like having plastic plants in the house," he said. "From a distance, they look good. And of course, they don't need to be watered so there's nothing to maintain."

But the rewards of caring for live plants are exponentially more satisfying, Schaick said. "Social media creates an illusion that we're having the meaningful connections our souls long for. And during this pandemic, even introverts have discovered their inherent need for actual social interactions, and the emptiness that comes with social media alone."

"People who used to think they were fine with just, you know, a good book and a comfortable chair are now saying, 'There's something missing in my life.' Humans are wired as social creatures. It's a piece of our DNA."

As the pandemic stretches into eight months and counting, more and more people are turning to social media as a substitute for risky in-person interactions. Facebook and other social media platforms have reported record use, compared to a year ago.

But is that always a good thing?

Social media "allows us to maintain connections with [far-flung] family members, and to reengage with people we may have lost touch with," said Nancy Skopp, Ph.D., a research psychologist with the Defense Health Agency's Psychological Health Center of Excellence.

"Social media also may serve as a creative outlet, as a means of self-expression," she said. "It can impart a sense of belonging for some and promote offline interactions."

But Skopp also recognizes the potential harmful effects. She was lead author of a 2018 study of Facebook use among 166 active-duty U.S. service members deployed to Afghanistan. For all of social media's benefits, "It makes it easier for people to make social status comparisons," she said. "This could be a risk factor for anxiety and depression among vulnerable people."

Social media engagements also may lead to aggression and exposure to bullying, she said, noting a study that found almost 25% of Facebook users felt regret about something they posed online. Skopp also points to another study of social media that was conducted before the pandemic. It found that over the course of 10 days, greater everyday use of social media resulted in lower feelings of overall well-being.

"I don't think anyone can make a blanket statement that social media is good, or social media is bad," Skopp said. "It's all about how you use it," even in times when in-person interactions are considered too risky, health-wise.

So participating in an interactive event is more beneficial, she said, than "just sitting around and scrolling through social media posts. That can be a little demoralizing and contribute to negative feelings and moods."

Skopp also says there are benefits to using social media to remain active and engaged in hobbies or topics you really care about – or have always wanted to explore. "This can help increase feelings about positivity for the future," she said.

Researchers can't say for certain how much time engaged in social media is too much. But it's important to spend quality time off line. For example, "there's a very large body of literature attesting that a regular exercise regimen is extremely helpful for mood regulation and just overall long-term mental and physical health," Skopp said.

Schaick said he rides his bicycle regularly and also goes for runs and walks. "Exercise is important for me," he said. "But so is this idea of taking control of myself – there are a lot of things I can do even in this restricted environment." He and his wife have created a social bubble with another couple and "carefully and responsibly" spend time together on the weekends.

"I think it's going to be years before we fully understand the psychological and emotional impact of COVID-19," Schaick said. "But even though the news seems bad and discouraging, I'm absolutely certain that we're going to get through this. And we will emerge as better, more resilient people."

You also may be interested in...

MHS Town Hall, May 12, 2021

Video
5/12/2021
MHS and Military OneSource COVID-19 Townhall, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Wednesday 12 May

Tune in for another MHS and Military OneSource Town Hall with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Donate Blood: It's Mission Critical

Video
4/21/2021
DHA Seal

The pandemic has affected nearly every part of our lives, including reductions in blood donations. Find a military blood donor center today to donate blood in a safe environment where we take all precautions against COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Armed Services Blood Program | Coronavirus

Got Your 6: Step Up

Video
3/18/2021
Got Your 6: Step Up

“Got Your 6” is TRICARE’s COVID-19 vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, three times a month. It includes the latest information about DoD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability for a DoD-affiliated, and TRICARE beneficiary audience.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

TRICARE | COVID-19 Vaccine | Together, We Are Stronger

Video
3/15/2021
DHA Seal

In the past year, we've faced challenges, and we've done it with courage. Now, hope is on the horizon. Get vaccinated, and let's take care of each other. Together, we are stronger: www.tricare.mil/CovidVaccine

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Secretary of Defense Video to the Force on COVID-19 Vaccinations

Video
2/24/2021
Image of soldier looking through COVID vaccine information laid out on a table

The Secretary of Defense addressed the entire workforce to encourage informed decision-making with regards to coronavirus-19 vaccination.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

MHS Minute: A Path Forward in 2021

Video
2/10/2021
DHA Seal

Want to know more about what MHS organizations and partners did in 2020? For a full look at the MHS Minute series, click here: https://shorturl.at/eDL14

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

LTG Place Vaccine Roll-Out Video

Video
1/18/2021
DHA Seal

DHA Director LTG Ron Place talks about coronavirus vaccines, their safety and efficacy, and encourages everyone to do their own research to get vaccinated.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

MHS Minute: December 2020

Video
12/28/2020
DHA Seal

See how MHS is leading a phased approach to offer 11.1 million Department of Defense personnel the first COVID-19 vaccines. To learn more about the safety and efficacy behind COVID-19 vaccines, go to: https://www.health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Combat-Support/Public-Health/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Vaccine-Efforts.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

MHS COVID Response

Video
12/21/2020
DHA Seal

The men and women of the Military Health System spent 2020 working to protect beneficiaries' health during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are just a few of our accomplishments.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Heroes Behind the Mask

Video
12/17/2020
DHA Seal

A tribute to those across the Military Health System who deserve recognition and thanks for their hard work during this pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Heroes Behind the Mask | December Toolkit

COVID-19 Response

Video
12/14/2020
DHA Seal

USPHS Lt. Courtney Labitzky, assigned to the Javits New York Medical Station (JNYMS), talks about their position at JNYMS in support of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response, April 29, 2020. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. (U.S. Army Video by Cpl. Rachel Thicklin)

Recommended Content:

December Toolkit | Heroes Behind the Mask

COVID-19 Vaccine Update | How Vaccines are Developed

Video
12/14/2020
COVID-19 Vaccine Update | How Vaccines are Developed

COVID-19 vaccines are within sight in the United States! Scientists continue making progress in testing and monitoring COVID-19 vaccines for safety and effectiveness, and the federal government is ensuring that all adults who want a vaccine will be able to get one at no cost. Learn how these and other vaccines are developed, tested, and authorized for use – and how they work to prevent diseases like COVID-19. This video uses interviews and visuals to help viewers understand the science behind vaccines and why there is reason for optimism. Experts featured in the video include: Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health; Dr, Moncef Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed; Dr. Stephen Hahn, Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Robert Kadlec, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the Department of Health and Human Services. For more information, visit http://www.coronavirus.gov.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Immunization Healthcare | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

COVID-19 Response2

Video
11/27/2020
DHA Seal

Army Spc. Sean Colangelo, assigned to the Javits New York Medical Station (JNYMS), talks about their position at JNYMS in support of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response, April 23, 2020. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. (U.S. Army Video by Cpl. Rachel Thicklin)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Heroes Behind the Mask

COVID-19 Response

Video
11/27/2020
DHA Seal

Army Pfc. David Alvarado, assigned to the Javits New York Medical Station (JNYMS), talks about their position at JNYMS in support of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response, April 24, 2020. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. (U.S. Army Video by Cpl. Rachel Thicklin.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Heroes Behind the Mask

How Can Vaccine and Antibody Studies Move So Quickly and Still Be Safe?

Video
11/3/2020
How Can Vaccine and Antibody Studies Move So Quickly and Still Be Safe?

This video provides a detailed overview of the processes that have been implemented to accelerate the pace of the COVID-19 vaccine and antibody studies, and what is being done to assure safety.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 3

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.