British are turning away from social media and embracing more traditional forms of communication during coronavirus blockage, a new survey suggests.
Compared to the terrifying experience of posting updates on Facebook and Instagram, two thirds of adults still think sending a handwritten message is the best way to keep in touch.
In a survey of over 2,000 British adults, 66 percent said that a personalized card is the most meaningful and thoughtful way to convey feelings to a loved one.
Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents said they felt happy writing a heartfelt letter or card, while 50 percent said social media has no positive effects on their close relationships.
The study was led by Dr. Anna Machin, an evolutionary anthropologist from the University of Oxford, who said younger people exist in an unhealthy “micro world” of social media.
Research suggests a return to more traditional forms of communication to combat the threat to mental health during social distance, including cards and letters
Dr. Machin explained that personalized and private forms of communication help improve our health by releasing neurochemicals in the brain.
But social media does not have the same favorable neurological impact due to its ‘performative’ nature.
“By using social media too much, we deny the brain the positive neurochemicals released by meaningful communication and that is why we begin to suffer,” said Dr. Machin.
“By sending a card, we can remember things we did with that person, share good memories, and you are likely to release a large amount of pleasant neurochemicals. ‘
More people reported that social media had made no difference in their connection to family and friends
In particular during coronavirus locking, people long for forms of interaction that best replicate personal and intimate contact.
“What we all really crave is a hug with the people we love and that’s because we’ve evolved to absolutely need it – that’s what our brain chemistry is geared towards,” said Dr. Machin.
“Making an effort in our closest relationships, something social media suggested we could get rid of by communicating with people en masse, is actually something that brings joy and benefit.
“We are also moving away from the public nature of social media and people are disconnecting and privately setting their sites so they can have a more intimate and special experience.”
When we receive a letter or card, brain activity gets closer to what happens when we communicate with someone personally.
There is a surge of chemicals like dopamine, which is related to emotional responses, and oxytocin, which is a chemical messenger related to social bonding.
When asked when they sent a letter or card to an older family member, 25 percent replied that they had in the past 12 months. However, other participants had done this even more recently – either in the past seven days, two weeks, or months
In contrast, posting updates on social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can create anxiety about how they will be received or whether they will get “ likes, ” she said.
And the more followers you have, the less personal your posts on social media become.
“If you write a card or letter to someone, it’s all gone – you’re not performing or trying to look perfect,” she said.
“It’s a private moment and that’s what people are longing for.”
Dr. Anna Machin, who oversaw the research, is an evolutionary anthropologist and writer at Oxford University. Interpersonal relationships benefit from ‘meaningful’ and traditional forms of communication for the positive neurochemicals they release in the brain, she said
The survey of 2,000 British adults was commissioned by TouchNote, an Android and iOS app that allows users to send physical postcards with photos taken on their phone.
Respondents were asked a series of 15 questions about their attitudes towards social media, including whether it made them feel more connected to their family, whether it changes the way they express themselves in written form, and the type of feelings they feel when posting on social media platforms.
Overall, 86 percent said social media and phone use disrupted people’s daily interactions – compared to just 4 percent who didn’t.
59 percent of 10 adults ages 18 to 24 felt that their social media accounts made them feel more connected to their friends and family, while 39 percent felt they made no difference to their relationships at all.
The most frequently cited negative feelings when using social media were ‘like missing something’, quoted by 34 percent of respondents followed by ‘down or depressed’ (28 percent), lonely (26 percent), rejected or excluded (25 percent) and anxious (25 percent).
22 percent agreed that using social media meant they were less in contact with family and friends, while another 28 percent disagreed or disagreed – a surprising finding given how easily platforms like Facebook and Instagram to connect
Respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 previously showed all these feelings.
“If we had something in our lives that had such an extreme impact on our physical health, we would definitely get more health warnings – we would be more concerned with how we used it,” said Dr. Machin.
“I don’t suggest we throw social media away, we just have to balance our use of it.
“It’s just a tool for social contact – one of many tools, and it certainly shouldn’t be the one you rely on the most.”
When asked what they thought was the most meaningful way to convey feelings to a loved one when they weren’t face-to-face, 66 percent opted for a personalized card, 21 percent an SMS, 8 percent an email, and just 5 per cent a social media message.
Even replacing social media activity with video calls can be a good replacement for the lack of personal interaction during the coronavirus lock
48 percent said they had written a personalized letter or card to a grandparent or an elderly relative.
Overall, 59 percent said social media is changing the way they express themselves in writing – largely driven by people between the ages of 18 and 24.
The study also suggests that social media’s grip on our lives is making older, less tech-savvy people more and more isolated and out of touch.
Nearly 60 percent said they think using social channels excludes the older generation, while 23 percent admitted they never wrote a card to a letter to a grandparent, older relative, or friend.
Dr. Machin suggested that the other side of the coronavirus pandemic may see an increase in face-to-face interactions rather than social media posts as people realize the value of the former for their mental health.
An overwhelming 85 percent agreed that using social media and phone makes everyday interactions between people more difficult – like friends or family sitting on their phones trying to talk to them
“What is happening with COVID-19 today makes us realize what really matters and that it is family and friends,” she said.
“It also changes our attitude towards the elderly, which is a good thing.
“We are all more aware of the older generation and those who live in our area and who may need help.
“Hopefully this new era of care will continue and gradually help older people feel more involved.
“Letters and cards play a key role in the new world we live in – and that’s not a bad thing.”
She added that some forms of digital communication – such as video chats via FaceTime or Zoom meetings during working hours – can help maintain our mental health because they provide more tangible human connections.
The study also found that Britons also prefer to leave a physical legacy – in the form of maps and printed photos – over a digital one.
“People are going to cherish the personal things they’ve done as real and tangible things – that’s an incredibly profound finding in this study,” said Dr. Machin.
“Sharing personal memories and photos, and showing them in our homes, helps strengthen relationships and improve our mental health.”
BRITISH WILL BE RATHER BEFORE A PHYSICAL LEAVE THAN A ‘DIGITAL’ HERITAGE
The survey also asked participants with a social media account what they would prefer to leave as a legacy when they die.
They were asked to choose from a list of four options:
– Printed photos
– An album or box of personalized cards
– Digital photos
– Social media page
Participants were asked to rank all four options in their preferred order and the results were as follows:
Most like to leave behind
– Printed photos (49 percent)
– An album or box of personalized cards (18 percent)
– Digital photos (15 percent)
– Social media page (7 percent)
Leave at least
– Social media page (67 percent)
– An album or box of personalized cards (12 percent)
– Digital photos (6 percent)
– Printed photos (5 percent)
Female respondents most preferred to leave printed photos as a visual legacy of their lives than men (53 percent versus 46 percent).
Those between the ages of 18 and 24 would most likely want printed photos as their legacy (39 percent), followed by an album or box of personalized cards (25 percent).
The study suggests that Britons view physical paraphernalia as a true reflection of themselves to pass on to loved ones, compared to social media accounts that may be compromised by insecurities or unreliable photos.