The New York Times has released a new report on the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has changed internet use in the United States. The data provides an interesting insight into the ways the pandemic, and the resulting lockdowns around the country, have altered our relationships with technology.
Some of the tidbits won’t shock you. Video chat services like Google Duo, Nextdoor, and Houseparty have all seen large increases in traffic since January 21st. Similarly, popular remote work apps, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Classroom, have gotten more popular. (Scrutiny on their privacy practices has also intensified.) But while you’ve probably suspected that these services were doing well, you may not realize just how much they’ve exploded until you’ve seen the trend lines for yourself.
“The offices and schools of America have all moved into our basements and living rooms,” write the authors. “Nothing is having a more profound impact on online activity than this change.”
Other conclusions are more surprising. For example, the writers look at the average daily traffic of Facebook, Netflix, and YouTube from January 15th to March 24th. (The first death from COVID-19 in the US was on February 29th.) While those respective mobile apps have seen very small increases in traffic over that period (or even declines), their corresponding browser equivalents have skyrocketed in the past few weeks.
We’ve even altered the way we look for news: traffic to local and national newspapers has jumped, but traffic to publications that the Times refers to as “partisan” (such as Infowars and Breitbart) hasn’t grown nearly as much and has even declined in some cases.
As a new, isolated reality settles in for communities around the country, it can be difficult to know whether the changes we’re making to our behavior are our own or symptoms of a bigger shift. For a broader look at the way our internet habits are changing, give this article a read.