Technology has played a crucial role in people’s lives during coronavirus pandemic. Social media use has increased, video chat is on the rise, and software developers like those at BairesDev have been busy creating apps for everything from symptom tracking to health agency news to gameplay.
The list of technology uses during this time is endless but many of them have something in common: connecting people to each other. Human connection is essential and, when we can’t have it in person, technology is the next best thing. Here we describe some of the many ways in which technology is bringing people together when, to maintain social distancing, they must stay apart.
People are having more conversations via video chat. From January to March Google Duo saw a 12.4% increase in traffic and Houseparty saw a nearly 80% spike. That’s because people are interested in seeing each other rather than just talking on the phone or texting as they did prior to the pandemic.
Video technology has also been useful for work teams and classrooms, with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Classroom seeing similar dramatic increases in use since January. According to the New York Times, “The offices and schools of America have all moved into our basements and living rooms.” The same is true in other parts of the world as well.
Social media — including Facebook, Twitter, Nextdoor, Pinterest, TikTok, and Reddit — has been bringing people together since it started, and, during the pandemic it’s become essential for getting critical information from health agencies, keeping loved ones up to date on our health status, coordinating assistance such as trips to the grocery store for those unable to go themselves, and learning what services businesses are providing and what steps they’re taking to keep patrons safe.
These platforms are also being used by organizations to fundraise for pandemic-related efforts such as assisting frontline medical workers, by people sharing stories of hope and optimism, and by anyone who wants to entertain or be entertained.
Of course, there are negative sides to social media during this time as well, including the spread of misinformation, people sharing dangerous advice, and ineffective products being marketed by those taking advantage of potential customers’ fears.
Technology is also helping people continue to have social gatherings that used to take place in person, including birthday parties, happy hours, book clubs, and church services. These events and others are happening via video services like Zoom, with some creative touches. For example, wine tasting groups are having each person in the group buy the same bottle of wine and be led through the tasting process by a group leader – all online.
Church services are being broadcast via large video meetings or through an online broadcast. Attendees are asked to participate in various ways, such as responding with comments through Facebook, singing along with family members, or contributing financially via text.
Online Therapy and Telehealth
In this challenging time, people need help and support more than ever, and it continues to be possible (like so many other things right now) online. Many apps are available to help those struggling emotionally with quarantine or other life issues. The functionality ranges from simple exercises to neutralizeanxiety and depression to guided meditations to artificial intelligence (AI)-based conversations to finding therapists who can hold sessions via video chat.
People are also connecting to their doctors via telehealth software. While some health issues require in-office visits, others can easily be addressed with an online chat. While many providers and insurance companies have their own applications, others are using specialty apps like Amwell, Teledoc, or Doctor on Demand, or even more universal apps like FaceTime and Skype.
Just as the pandemic hasn’t done away with the human need to connect, it also hasn’t done away with our need for artistic expression. Visual artists, musicians, comedians, dancers, and many others are making the most of their time at home with inspired “from home” performances. Just a few examples include the Quarantine Remix featuring Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 featuring the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Dance for Hope featuring Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance.
The pandemic is changing nearly every aspect of life as we know it and technology is playing a big part in that phenomenon. In addition to the uses mentioned here, it’s helping to diagnose, track, and — hopefully soon — cure COVID-19. As we move toward global recovery, we’re sure to learn some new uses for technology that will continue long after the virus has passed.