Title: Sustaining social capital online amidst social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic: web-based communities, their mitigating effects, and associated issues

Authors: Ardion D. Beldad

Addresses: Department of Communication Science, University College Twente, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands

Abstract: COVID-19 prompted the enforcement of strict social distancing measures in most parts of the world. These measures have serious implications for how people interact, socialise, and collaborate with one another. As social distancing contradicts the social nature of human beings, social connections are still maintained even at a distance. Various forms of modern communication technologies (e.g., online social networking sites, video conferencing tools) allow people to sustain their social capital, even during a pandemic. Therefore, it is argued that web-based communities are instrumental in tackling the psychological costs of social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, people's increasing dependence on advanced communication technologies during uncertain times are associated with several issues. COVID-19 is highlighting digital inequality, which makes it unthinkable for people in some parts of the world to proceed with their normal activities online. Moreover, increased use of these technologies has implications for people's online privacy and mental well-being.

Keywords: COVID-19; social distancing; social capital; online social networking sites; video conferencing technologies; web-based communities.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2021.112857

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2021 Vol.17 No.1, pp.35 - 52

Received: 19 May 2020
Accepted: 20 May 2020

Published online: 20 Jan 2021 *

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