Canadian Sociological Association
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis that has had profound impacts on people’s lives. Under these circumstances, social support can buffer against pandemic-related stress. Yet, the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic with its stringent health guidelines have created unique challenges to the mobilization of social support. These challenges particularly affect vulnerable groups with limited digital life skills. Based on a qualitative study of 101 semi-structured interviews with East York residents in Toronto, Canada conducted in 2013–2014, we investigate what new and transferable digital life skills are needed in the pre- and post-pandemic era to mobilize social support. Our findings reveal that East Yorkers easily transfer their digital skills to many spheres of their lives, which help them to organize their busy social lives and coordinate events and gatherings as well as to flexibly socialize online. When needed, East Yorkers adapt and expand their digital skills to substitute for in-person contact, often overcoming communication barriers. One of the key benefits of developing digital life skills is the ability to mobilize social support (i.e., companionship, emotional aid, large services, and technical support), whereby individuals employed different digital skills to mobilize different types of support. The findings demonstrate what new and transferable digital life skills are needed to navigate social support in a post-pandemic era. The study has implications for the development of age-specific interventions to strengthen much needed digital life skills that will aid individuals in mobilizing their social support during crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and help mitigate the negative effects of stress.
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Citation of this paper:
Harper, M.G., Quan-Haase, A. & Hollingshead, W. (May 2022). Mobilizing social support: New and transferable digital skills in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, Paper presentation at the Canadian Sociological Association Congress 2022, Virtual Conference. May 16-May20.
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