Snap Inc. today released its second global Friendship study, interviewing 30,000 people across sixteen countries, to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic and other global issues have impacted friendship.
Seventeen experts on friendship from around the world contributed to the report.
“As friends around the world navigate the new normal of social distancing, this year’s Friendship Report shows us that during the COVID-19 pandemic visual communication has become more important than ever,” said Anubhav Nayyar, Director of Market Development for SEA, at Snap.
Six months after much of the world began social distancing, friends are having to find new ways to stay connected, and the long term effects are only just starting to become clear.
A majority of Malaysian friends say they are using online channels to communicate more than they would have before COVID-19 (81%) and for many, those conversations have been deeper (59%), rather than focusing on surface-level topics.
It appears digital communications are key to staying in touch when we’re apart, with a vast majority (85%) saying that they have helped friends maintain their relationship, regardless of age.
Even though there’s been an uptick in outreach to friends, COVID-19 has also led to loneliness for some. 31% of those surveyed said they’ve felt lonely since the pandemic started, 10% higher than pre-COVID-19.
In total, a third of people said that COVID-19 has affected their friendships (35%). With 54% saying that it has led to feeling more distant from friends. Nearly half of those surveyed agreed with the statement that they “felt more distant from friends because they couldn’t spend time in-person” (46%).
“People perceive friendships as important relationships and idealize a close friend as a person whom they trust, love unconditionally, feel comfortable with, and show their real self to,” said to Dr. Nur Hafeeza Ahmad Pazil, Senior Lecturer of Anthropology and Sociology at the Universiti Sains Malaysia.
“Self- disclosure is a part of the process of building the qualities of intimacy in which disclosing self and intimacy are associated with high levels of trust, and people usually relate intimacy by keeping ‘others’ at a distance.”
The upside is that, with the pandemic causing so much isolation, people increasingly want to reach out and check in on those they care about. Over a third of people (39%) say their friendships are more important to them now and over half of individuals surveyed are making an intentional choice to reach out to friends that they haven’t spoken to in a while (54%).
Last year, Snap’s Friendship Report found that friendships, especially those from childhood, have a huge impact on happiness and wellbeing. So, it was surprising to see this year that 29% of Malaysian respondents have lost touch with a close friend but that 59% say they would like to rekindle their relationship.
In terms of friends who are no longer in touch, Snap found the ways Malaysians would most like to reach out, is through sending a photo that reminded them of a shared memory (52%), followed by a photo that reminded them of their friend (49%).
Humour also ranked highly, with 44% of Malaysians surveyed thinking that sending a funny meme or GIF would be the best way to start a conversation.
Over a third (37%) would like tools to use to help communicate, especially in tough situations like getting back in touch.
In direct response to these findings, Snap has launched the Friendship Time Capsule, a collaborative photo collage allowing Snapchatters to create a new shared memory between themselves and a friend.
The new feature invites users to take a selfie and then send it to a friend who does the same. It then uses Snap’s machine learning to put the friends together and age them up through a series of scenarios in the future. The aim is to show how users care for friends when they can’t be together, or to act as an aid in getting back in touch with a close friend.
A number of celebrities have taken part, including Malaysian singer-songwriter Ismail Izzani and British singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi.
“Asraf and I met when I was first starting out with my singing career three years ago. He hired me to perform at an event and our working relationship eventually turned into friendship,” said Ismail Izzani who used the feature to reach out to an old friend Asraf Zainnuddin.
“We’ve remained close ever since. Asraf and I are currently at different life stages as he recently got married and I’m focusing on my career. However, keeping in touch means a lot to us and finding new ways to do that has been part of the fun, especially in a time of COVID-19.”
The Friendship Time Capsule was created to combat some of the difficulties friendships are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Talking in pictures and videos layered with creative tools like our augmented reality Lenses, Filters, and personal avatars Bitmoji, help Snapchatters express themselves and interact visually,” said Anubhav Nayyar. “They serve as an essential connector when meeting face to face is not an option and at this difficult time have enabled Snapchatters to feel closer to their best friends even as non-Snapchatters feel more distant.
“We hope that new features like our Friendship Time Capsule will continue to help Snapchatters stay close with their best friends and support one another.”
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