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Healing online? Social anxiety and emotion regulation in pandemic experience

Anna Bortolan Orcid Logo

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, Volume: 22, Issue: 5, Pages: 1195 - 1214

Swansea University Author: Anna Bortolan Orcid Logo

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Abstract

During the pandemic of Covid-19, internet-based communication became for many the primary, or only, means of interaction with others, and it has been argued that this had a host of negative effects on emotional and mental health. However, some people with a lived experience of mental ill-health also...

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Published in: Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences
ISSN: 1568-7759 1572-8676
Published: Springer Science and Business Media LLC 2023
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa62263
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Abstract: During the pandemic of Covid-19, internet-based communication became for many the primary, or only, means of interaction with others, and it has been argued that this had a host of negative effects on emotional and mental health. However, some people with a lived experience of mental ill-health also perceived improvements to their wellbeing during the period in which social activities were moved online.In this paper, I explore the possibility that some of these improvements are due to the partial “disembodiment” of emotions facilitated by internet-mediated interaction. In particular, I consider the phenomenology of social anxiety and how it may be impacted upon by encountering others primarily through the medium of internet-enabled technology.I will start by reconstructing a phenomenological account of social anxiety to which disruptions of bodily experience are central. I will then move to consider how the experiential dynamics that are particularly prominent in social anxiety can be weakened when communicating with others via video calls, instant messages, and social media more broadly. I will suggest that this is the case due to the diminished visibility of the body online, and the higher degree of control and agency over one’s experience that can be exercised in this context.Finally, I will argue that the weakening of social anxiety through internet-mediated contact exemplifies some of the processes which are key to emotion regulation more widely, thus suggesting that communication and interaction online could have a positive effect on a wider range of affective disturbances.
Keywords: Internet, Mental health, Social anxiety, Embodiment, Pandemic, Emotion
College: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Funders: Swansea University
Issue: 5
Start Page: 1195
End Page: 1214