Connected while apart: Associations between social distancing, computer-mediated communication frequency, and positive affect during the early phases of COVID-19

Kevin N. Shufford, Deborah L. Hall, Ashley K. Randall, Bailey M. Braunstein, Mary M. O’Brien, Kristin D. Mickelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered life for individuals worldwide. Specifically, at the time of data collection (late April 2020), most forms of face-to-face interactions were limited and, in some cases, prohibited, as close contact with others increases the rate of transmitting the virus. As social beings, engaging in social distancing may have negative consequences on well-being. However, many individuals maintained their social connections by means of computer-mediated communication (CMC), such as hosting FaceTime happy hours or family reunions. Utilizing a nationally representative sample of 985 adults from the United States, this study investigated the association between social distancing adherence and positive affect and the extent to which this association might be mediated by CMC frequency. Results did not indicate a direct effect of social distancing adherence on positive affect. However, an indirect effect between these two variables occurred when mediated by CMC frequency. Specifically, greater social distancing adherence predicted greater frequency of CMC, which predicted greater positive affect. These findings held controlling for age, gender, race/ethnicity, relationship status, and income. Results suggest that despite social distancing, CMC may be a beneficial way to engage with others during and, perhaps, beyond COVID-19.

Keywords

  • computer-mediated communication
  • COVID-19
  • positive affect
  • social distancing
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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