Online learning and Its Effects on Mental Health

-By Sania Patel

Online Learning

With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning has become second nature to many students. The virus first appeared on December 12, 2019, and has since exploded into a full-fledged pandemic equipped with social-distancing rules and stay-at-home orders. Shortly after, other countries began to experience the effects of the new virus. The United States, in particular, declared the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11, 2019, and all public spaces shut down immediately.

When workplaces and learning institutions - schools and colleges - shut down, people were desperate to find a solution. Some schools wanted to continue the school year, and various companies needed a way to communicate with their team. Desperation called for innovation, and the online meeting platform, Zoom, quickly rose in popularity. Schools found a way to conduct their learning online, while many adults resorted to their homes being their new offices. Zoom continued through the remainder of 2019 and is still popular today, as the pandemic has failed to cease. In light of the pandemic, Zoom appears as the superhero, allowing people to save their relationships, jobs, and educations. However, as with everything, there are some flaws. This article will explore the benefits and drawbacks of Zoom, by analyzing the mental wellbeing of introverts and extroverts.

People are usually classified as either introverts or extroverts. These groups are polar opposites, while introverts are the cliche, bookish, nerdy, kid in the back, extroverts are the party-lovers, with popularity and friends galore. Introverts are described as shy, reticent people; they find themselves more comfortable focusing on their inner thoughts and ideas, rather than what’s happening externally. They enjoy spending time with one or two people, rather than large groups or crowds. They often limit their social interactions, as they gain energy through solitude and quiet. On the other hand, extroverts are described as outgoing, overtly expressive persons. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes them perfectly,

“a typically gregarious and unreserved person who enjoys and seeks out social interaction.”

Extroverts are well known because of their affable nature and sociable actions - they make their presence in a room widely known and appreciated.

Given the nature of introverts and extroverts, it’s obvious to assume that, while introverts enjoyed the online aspect of the pandemic, extroverts hated it. Introverts thrived, while extroverts struggled to build social connections and upkeep current relationships. According to Procedia, a group dedicated to social and behavioral sciences,

“The obtained data suggest that the introverts prefer to learn and contribute to an online discussion forum while the extroverts would rather take part in the face to face classroom environment.”

At Queens College, a survey was done by the students to find the differences of opinion between introverts and extroverts over online learning. Freshman Brian Hsu shared,

“I would say I’m an extrovert. I miss talking to and joking around with my friends. Playing games via iMessage is just not the same as seeing their faces. I often contact them over FaceTime, but I hope I can physically hang out with them soon.”

In contrast, Netanya, an introvert, comments that quarantine has been very relaxing.

The online platform of Zoom offers a haven for introverts, as they have the option to turn their camera off and keep themselves muted. Also, due to the format, introverts often don’t have to talk in meetings, and, if they do, the computer acts as a barrier from the real world. For both school and work, Zoom lacks the sense of community brought by traditional gatherings - it doesn’t allow people to talk at once to each other, and it limits the ability for groups to form. While this is detrimental to an extrovert, introverts find it helpful, as they can remain unmentioned and avoid social interaction.

Extroverts find online meeting platforms to be frustrating and challenging. For starters, they have a difficult time paying attention, as they depend on face-to-face interaction to keep them engaged. They also struggle with relationships and communication - the Zoom platform eliminates the need for personal interactions and social gatherings, limiting extroverts’ outgoing and vibrant personality traits.

Although they share many differences, introverts and extroverts suffer from the same mental health issues that come with online meetings and learning programs. They both feel the effects of fatigue, depression, and anxiety, as Zoom has handicapped their abilities to handle stress, interact with others, and manage their time. The mundaneness of these new systems caused people to feel lazy and unmotivated; it became popular for children and adults alike to begin wearing pajamas to their meetings.

Compounded with the other effects of the pandemic, many people began to live inside their beds, alternating between sleep and work, which contributed to the increased reports of feeling miserable and useless. People began to view their bodies, work, and everyday life as unwanted - suicidal rates dramatically increased. According to Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital,

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that at least 40 percent of adults in the United States struggled with anxiety, depression, trauma, and substance use disorders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This data revealed that symptoms of anxiety and depression quadrupled in the beginning months of the pandemic.”

The CDC reports that due to increased suicidal stresses - economic stress, social isolation, intensified anxiety and fear, and limited access to mental health care and religious communities - the suicidal rates were bound to increase during the pandemic.

The statistics, as well as information given by adults and children, is overwhelmingly negative. People depend on live interactions and settings outside of their homes to thrive at work or school. As the pandemic wears on, social interactions and ventures outside must be implemented to improve mental health. Mental health care access should be increased to better fit online platforms and safe gatherings with close family members and friends. This will allow people to decrease negative thoughts associated with the increased usage of online media. In the end, people must find a way to implement COVID-19 restrictions into their everyday work and school lives to help guide adults and children towards a more positive mental headspace.