What Exactly Has COVID-19 Changed? From the Perspective of a High School Junior - Nisha Shastry

I think we can all agree that a lot has happened in 2020. COVID-19, for one, has been a major ongoing event colliding with our lives. It certainly changed our everyday schedules and simultaneously forced companies -especially technology and wholesale- to get off their laurels and think creatively. However, even though the pandemic has sparked a media frenzy, I found that I didn’t actually know what exactly COVID-19 has impacted, other than online school and work. So one weekend, I fell down a rabbit hole and took the liberty of consolidating internet studies and statistics so that you didn’t have to! Here’s what I found:

After Washington was shut down due to the skyrocketing amount of confirmed COVID-19 cases, one of the first major changes to my daily life was school. Due to obvious reasons, we could no longer go to school. As high schoolers, our last 4 years of school are extremely important for our post-graduation futures; any lost time and learning could be detrimental to our GPAs, schedules, final exams, and beyond. All Washington schools were thereby required to transition to online learning to minimize the harm done to our education. With in-person communication cut off, school districts were forced to instill a platform upon which all remote conversations could take place. Lake Washington decided to use Microsoft Teams as the official online education center for communications. What I didn’t realize is that due to the Lake Washington School District being near Microsoft, the majority of the technology we used was influenced by them. I quickly learned by discussing with friends from different districts that Teams wasn’t the only communication platform being used in schools; several other remote work apps rapidly rose in popularity, with Zoom taking the lead with over 6M downloads on iOS less than a month after the first U.S. COVID-19 confirmed death.

In fact, many schools chose to use Zoom over MS Teams. One reason for this could be that most classrooms only require a video chat feature, making a service like Teams seem overwhelming to use (although, Teams consists of extensive features which can be useful for group work, projects, and even classrooms if they choose to take advantages of the tools available) and Zoom appears to be the most simple way to go. Regardless of what remote learning platform we decide to use, I think it’s safe to say that “...nothing is having a more profound impact on online activity than this change,”(Koeze and Popper). And this was only the beginning.

Cutting off in-person communication not only impacted our school lives, but it also left companies with limited options to keep their businesses afloat. Due to the unconventional circumstances and the natural human longing for interaction, companies used their customers’ emotions to their benefit. What is their secret weapon, you ask? Mission-based marketing. Mission-based marketing has always been present, occasionally popping up every now and then. However, companies found a global pandemic to be a great opportunity to uplift and unify its consumers. In a recent study conducted by Sprout Social, their #BrandsGetReal survey revealed that 78% of consumers wanted brands to use their power of connection and community to bring them together. Duly, there has been a 42% in mission-based marketing during this COVID-19 period. An example of this in action is displayed by none other than the popular food chain Chipotle. Chipotle, “...has focused on community-building efforts through Zoom and their #ChipotleTogether campaign. The restaurant chain’s virtual hangouts started as a way to bring people together as they social distance, so they don’t have to eat alone,” (Cover). Their Zoom live streams received 500+ million impressions while helping to raise relief funds.

With the instillment of social distancing and house retreatment, as I continue to reiterate, we instinctively gravitate towards the media to keep us connected and updated on recent activity. Naturally, usage levels of social media spiked; a recent study among 25,000 consumers over 30 markets showed a 61% increase in the usage of social media (Holmes). More specifically, populations in countries hit hardest by COVID-19 have shown a 50% increase in messaging on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Due to our transition to at-home life, our schedules have gone out-of-whack; daily high-activity time slots have shifted since the COVID-19 update. Personally, I can’t remember the last time I woke up to my 6:30 alarm. Everything has slowed down, and we don’t have that “morning rush” to kick-off our day, thus resulting in an 11:00 breakfast followed by a 3:00 lunch. According to Sprout Social, Facebook activity amongst the majority of the population transitioned from Wednesdays 11 a.m. and 1-2p.m. to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10–11 a.m.

Identically, engagement in Instagram and Twitter has changed to earlier parts of the day. These later engagement levels suggest that our day tends to begin and end later, “with activity starting up at 8 a.m. rather than 7 a.m. and wrapping up around 4 p.m. rather than 3 p.m.,” (Arens).

The virus has also granted us with spare time (or if you’re like me, procrastination) on our hands, of which we choose to not only fill by scrolling through feeds, but also streaming our favorite entertainment services.

Netflix and YouTube showed an exponential increase in usage since February 29 (the first U.S. COVID-19 death). With theatres closed and restaurants shut down, we have no choice but to retreat to haul videos and horror films.

Apart from entertainment, we long to stay connected on a more granular level. Personally, I’ve always used FaceTime (as do many iPhone users), but that hasn’t been the only thing folks are using to satisfy the empty void of personal interaction; Nextdoor.com and Houseparty have gained popularity over the course of these past few months, along with Google Duo.

These tools let us connect with people around us and educate ourselves about the events occurring in our respective communities. We also use this established connectivity as a way to express our views and concerns – in this case, COVID-19 and its effects.

I was shocked to learn the extent of which COVID-19 conversation drastically rose; starting at around 1 million messages per day during the month of February, it rapidly grew to 5- 6 million a day when the U.S. stock market declined on the 20th of the same month. As COVID-19 slowly made its presence felt global, its topic volume quadrupled to 20 million. The national emergency declaration of the U.S., along with Italy’s lockdown announcement and the World Health Organization confirming the situation as a pandemic sent everyone’s fingers tapping, texting, and tweeting everywhere.

“13.3 million social messages were talking about quarantine policies and social distancing,” says Sprout Social writer Katherine Kim, “[and]... conversations around COVID-19 and unemployment or layoffs increased by 4,725%.” We use the platforms handy as almost a forum to vent or discuss issues occurring worldwide.

These are just a few instances of the consequences the virus has imposed on us, and there are so many resources available to help us understand how it has changed each and every sector of our society. Seeing this data displays human reaction and our natural ability to adapt and advance when life throws us a curveball. And even though this isn’t the end of the virus’s wrath, I think we’ll be ok.


Works Cited

Arens, Elizabeth. "How COVID-19 Has Changed Social Media Engagement." Sprout Social, 8 May 2020, sproutsocial.com/insights/covid19-social-media-changes/.

Brandon, John. "What Social Media Tells Us About Coronavirus Fear, Anxiety - And Hope." Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 24 Mar. 2020,


Chen, Jenn. "Important Instagram Stats You Need to Know for 2020." Sprout Social, 16 June 2020, sproutsocial.com/insights/instagram-stats/.

Cover, Lauren. "5 Stats for Social Media Marketers in the Software Industry." Sprout Social, 20 May 2020, sproutsocial.com/insights/software-industry-stats/.

Cover, Lauren. "What to Do with Your 2020 Social Strategy Now." Sprout Social, 10 June 2020, sproutsocial.com/insights/adjusting-your-2020-social-strategy/.

Holmes, Ryan. "Is COVID-19 Social Media's Levelling Up Moment?" Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 24 Apr. 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/ryanholmes/2020/04/24/is-covid-19-social-medias-levelling-up-moment/#c1451ac6c606.

Kannenberg, Lizz. "Social Spotlight: Adjusting and Adapting during a Global Pandemic." Sprout Social, 9 Apr. 2020, sproutsocial.com/insights/social-spotlight-adjusting-during-a-global-pandemic/.

Kim, Katherine. "A Closer Look: What Brands Need to Know about COVID-19." Sprout Social, 10 Apr. 2020, sproutsocial.com/insights/what-brands-need-to-know-covid-19/.

Kim, Katherine. "A Look Ahead: Examining the Shifts in the COVID-19 Conversation." Sprout Social, 18 May 2020, sproutsocial.com/insights/covid-19-industry-breakdown/.

Kitterman, Ted. "How Social Media Strategies Should Adapt to COVID-19." PR Daily, 30 Mar. 2020, www.prdaily.com/how-social-media-strategies-should-adapt-to-covid-19/.

Koeze, Ella, and Nathaniel Popper. "The Virus Changed the Way We Internet." The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Apr. 2020, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/07/technology/coronavirus-internet-use.html.

"Social Networks: Average Time Spent by US Adult Social Network Users, 2015-2022 (Minutes per Day, Nov 2019 vs. April 2020)." EMarketer, EMarketer, 1 May 2020, www.emarketer.com/chart/236260/social-networks-average-time-spent-by-us-adult-social-network-users-2015-2022-minutes-per-day-nov-2019-vs-april-2020.

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