Digital Dependence: Online Fatigue and Coping Strategies During the COVID-19 Lockdown

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As the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns forced populations across the world to become completely dependent on digital devices for working, studying, and socializing, there has been no shortage of published studies about the possible negative effects of the increased use of digital devices during this exceptional period. In seeking to empirically address how the concern with digital dependency has been experienced during the pandemic, we present findings from a study of daily self-reported logbooks by 59 university students in Copenhagen, Denmark, over 4 weeks in April and May 2020, investigating their everyday use of digital devices. We highlight two main findings. First, students report high levels of online fatigue, expressed as frustration with their constant reliance on digital devices. On the other hand, students found creative ways of using digital devices for maintaining social relations, helping them to cope with isolation. Such online interactions were nevertheless seen as a poor substitute for physical interactions in the long run. Our findings show how the dependence on digital devices was marked by ambivalence, where digital communication was seen as both the cure against, and cause of, feeling isolated and estranged from a sense of normality.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMedia, Culture & Society
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)967-984
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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