5 ways in which the coronavirus has changed our online behavior

It is not unusual to watch a movie from past decades and notice how different life was – different technology, different clothes, even different common words. But who would have thought that we would look back on movies or even our own video recordings from 2019 and think about how much has changed! The arrival of Covid-19 has us all constantly checking the physical distance to other people and adding “mask” to the typical “phone, wallet, keys” when we leave the house. 

The massive changes in our social lives and new conditions have also impacted our behavior online. Let’s look at 5 ways covid has changed how we use online services and what we do on the web.


1. Entertainment – Where are people watching their favorite shows?

In the beginning of the worldwide pandemic, with many people spending most or all of their time at home, services like Netflix and Youtube saw their numbers increasing. According to data from a Nicequest community study, there was a 12% increase in visits to Netflix from members in Spain when the nationwide lockdown started in March. The fact that users stayed at home also favored the return of the web version. While users tended to increasingly use apps, being at home and wanting bigger screens brought back the habit of watching films on web browsers.


2. Online shopping – What are people buying during the pandemic?

Staying home and many shops being closed naturally favored the rise of online shopping. Already in the first weeks of the pandemic, the travel sector saw a drop in sales, and people increasingly bought their groceries online. But it wasn’t just the essentials that shoppers bought online. People were also interested in making their homes more comfortable; indoor plant sellers and loungewear brands saw their sales numbers multiplying. It seems like even the casual stroll through clothing stores now happened online, as apparel brands received more visits to their online shops, but sales decreased.


3. Communication – How are people keeping in touch with each other?

Video calling is not new but how and when we do it has changed. Before the pandemic, it was mostly associated with “skyping” a loved one who was far away. Now when we think of video calling we picture lots of little quadrants with the faces of our colleagues, friends, and family members talking to us from their homes. And the preferred platform isn’t Skype, it’s Zoom, one of the big winners in the fight for the video calling market during the covid-19 pandemic. Zoom and also Houseparty appeared at the right time with the right features and other big players like Google Meet have been able to stay relevant by updating their product.

The real experiences by a large number of people at the same time has helped identify issues and inspired new features like virtually raising your hand when wanting to interject or blurring out backgrounds for more privacy while working from home.


4. Information – Where do people look for updates on the coronavirus?

“Someone who knows somebody whose wife is a doctor told me…” This is not the most trustworthy intro when trying to get information, but we will still listen, right? Getting reliable news on the virus and government policies has been difficult. Mostly because doctors and government officials are also still trying to find answers. In a six-country study, people were asked about where they get informed. While many people said they also use social media like Instagram, Facebook, or messaging groups to find updates on the pandemic, most people put their trust in official information from health organizations and established newspapers. Especially in the first months of the international pandemic news sites saw a surge in visits to their pages.

However, this does not mean that the struggling newspaper business is saved. Since they rely on selling ad spaces and many advertisers don’t want their content to appear next to articles on covid (they “blacklist” the topic), newspapers are not making more money by keeping us informed about the coronavirus.


5. Naming – What are we even calling this virus?

At first, it was “this new flu in China” then we learned the term “coronavirus”, then we learned that this is actually a much broader term and the virus we have now is called “Sars-CovId-19”, or short “Covid 19”. Looking at data from Google trends we can see which were the most used search terms to get information on the virus over the past 12 months. In March we see the highest peak of search interest, with “coronavirus” having a major head start. Over the summer most people got used to calling it Covid which is now the most used search term worldwide. Looking at the breakdown by regions, we can see that in many parts of the world, however, people are still mostly calling it coronavirus. Sars-CoV-2 never really made it into our daily vocabulary.

Source: Google Trends
Source: Google Trends

Do you recognize yourself in these changes? Tell us in the comments about how your online habits have changed in 2020.

Add a comment


  1. sue | 23 December, 2020

    I have you tube on at some point on telly screen most days, usually christian worship music, I love Jesus and miss church so very much!

  2. sandra | 25 November, 2020

    having to wear a mask all the time is the biggest change, and not seeing my family

  3. teresa | 21 November, 2020

    1.I always make sure I wear a mask now an 2. wash my hands this is something that we as a family always do.

  4. Clare Savinson | 12 November, 2020

    I’m still spending- online! I seem to shop when I’m really bored. I’ve got a lot more spare time to spend on my hobby of sewing, and that’s great.

  5. Deborah Shepard | 7 November, 2020

    Shopping and talking to family friends on zoom. The visits have changed from going to the malls houses meeting social distancing.

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