A Substitute for Social Interaction: Social Media

My father has always been quite adamant that substitutions do not work in cooking or baking – ever. He does not want a new or replacement ingredient for the one that expired in our fridge six days ago. Just make something else. Or chance it with the expired milk (it smells fine). Do not mess with the norm. 

He is right, to an extent. If you do not know the right substitute, or if it is just too different, the end product will not end up the same. But maybe we are looking at it wrong. Maybe instead of thinking of what you do not have you could focus on what you do have!

If all you have is applesauce and you are out of eggs, will they do for that cake?

If you swap ground beef for ground turkey, will he notice if you do not say anything?

If your best friend moves across the country, will you just wait for them to visit to stay updated on their life?

If all you have is social media because you cannot leave the house, will that do?

In an unprecedented time, the coronavirus pandemic is upon us. No need to all out panic, but throwing caution to the wind is inadvisable as well. Operating under uncertain circumstances is tricky, and now more than ever, social media has become such an essential part of daily life. 

Communication as we know it had already been virtualized, but the jump became more prominent in the past few months. Since being quarantined and beyond, I have found myself using social media to interact with friends and family more than ever before. Sure, I can admit it is not the ideal substitute for seeing people live and in the flesh, but you take what you can. 

What exactly counts as social media? Merriam-Webster defines social media as “forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content (such as videos)”

“Forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).

Merriam Webster

Basically, social media is a “one to many” quick socialization tool. That being said, social media is imperative. My brother and his wife recently had a baby, and they communicated how labor went, when his son was born, and how him and mama are doing now all through facebook and text messages. I and the rest of my family followed his texts, facetimes and facebook posts throughout the whole process, and look forward to seeing any and every update he has made since then. I am so grateful that my relatives and I have been able to stay in the loop during a time like this.

Hello baby Luke!

Further, people turn to their various support systems in times of crisis – family, friends, religion. I work at a church, and we have been utilizing facebook live and instagram more than ever now! Back when we were completely quarantined, churches were only allowed to stream their services with the smallest staff you could operate on. That meant we had a small band, a few tech people, and our pastor and his wife at church – maybe ten people in all, if that. 

Each Sunday, we held a virtual lobby, where one of our staff would connect with those who commented on the facebook live post — talk about fast moving! After that, we would perform the songs to an empty sanctuary that could usually hold up to 900 people. As you can imagine, it was pretty strange singing and not seeing the reaction of a crowd in response. But on the other side of that camera, thousands of people were watching through facebook live. We consistently had 8,000+ views every Sunday service. People were able to sing their hearts out at home, laugh at the humorous points of the sermon, and pray together. We were still able to be “a part” of something bigger, even while apart. 

Celebration Church’s Virtual Lobby Promotion

Of course, while it may not provide the same experience to watch a sermon online as it would in person, having the opportunity to do something (in this case, a substitute for corporate worship) was still a way that people could connect when doing so in person could have unintentional consequences. 

Now that the church is allowed to meet in person again, I can confidently say I have never seen this congregation of people so enthusiastic. The substitute online interaction did not carry the same weight as the in person normal, but having a version of normal proved to be a valuable experience nonetheless. 

Social media is not meant to be a complete replacement for real life social interaction. It has absolutely taken off in popularity, the goal has always been to provide a sense of connection where connection was once not possible, or limited at best. One thing is for certain — we have rapidly adapted to the social media world, and it seems that it is here to stay. 

I cannot acknowledge the use of social media without addressing how negative it can be. It is true, that spending all of your time on social media can take a toll on mental and physical health, however, just like it can be applied to most things: moderation is key. Social media is not inherently bad, nor inherently good. It just is. I could write a whole different blog post on the adverse effects of social media, but as a substitute for face to face interaction when it cannot happen? Social media will work.

“Don’t build links. Build relationships.”

Rand Fishkin




2 thoughts on “A Substitute for Social Interaction: Social Media

  1. I agree with many of your thoughts. I have mixed feelings about using social media in my personal life and have almost deleted my social accounts many times. However, it’s as you say–it’s an opportunity to connect. And social media was an important form of communication while we were all quarantined. Virtual activities were our only way to stay connected during that time. Social media can never truly replace in-person interactions, but it can be a substitute if necessary.


  2. I agree with your ending point leading readers to understand that digital won’t be able to replace all the nuisances that come from face-to-face interaction. From a business standpoint, there are so many things to learn from how consumers changed their behaviors during higher quarantine restrictions for improving digital processes. I think if the question is applied – how can I engage my consumers when face-to-face isn’t an option? (not just during times like covid) – businesses can find creative solutions to connect with their customers in ways they had never thought of before.


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