Online Communication Shifts in the Midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Case Study on Snapchat


  • Qi Yang Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Weinan Wang Snap Inc.
  • Lucas Pierce Snap Inc.
  • Rajan Vaish Snap Inc.
  • Xiaolin Shi Snap Inc.
  • Neil Shah Snap Inc.



Organizational and group behavior mediated by social media; interpersonal communication mediated by social media, Psychological, personality-based and ethnographic studies of social media, Qualitative and quantitative studies of social media, Social media usage on mobile devices; location, human mobility, and behavior


The Covid-19 pandemic has created large shifts in how people stay connected with each other in lieu of social distancing and isolation measures. More and more, individuals have turned to online communications as a necessary replacement for in-person interaction. Despite this, the research community has little understanding of how online communications have been influenced by the offline impacts of Covid-19. Our work touches upon this topic. Specifically, we study research questions around the impact of Covid-19 on online public and private sharing propensity, its influence on online communication homophily, and correlations between online communication and offline case severity in the United States. To do so, we study the usage patterns of 79 million US-based users on Snapchat, a large, leading mobile multimedia-driven social sharing platform. Our findings suggest that Covid-19 has increased propensity to privately communicate with friends, while decreasing propensity to publicly share content when users are out-and-about. Moreover, online communications have observed a marked decrease in baseline homophily across locations, ages and genders, with relative increases in cross-group communications. Finally, we observe that increased offline positive Covid-19 case severity in US states is associated with widening gaps between across-state and within-state communication increases after the onset of Covid-19, as well as marked declines in public sharing. We hope our findings drive further interest and work on online communication changes during pandemics and other extended times of crisis.




How to Cite

Yang, Q., Wang, W., Pierce, L., Vaish, R., Shi, X., & Shah, N. (2021). Online Communication Shifts in the Midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Case Study on Snapchat. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 15(1), 830-840.