MANILA -- A cybersecurity company has noticed a new trend among social media users worldwide as they cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its global study of more than 15,000 people from 25 countries, Kaspersky said 47% are turning to virtual "one-sided" or "parasocial" relationships with influencers as an "escape from reality."
It said the numbers are particularly high in Southeast Asia, with 61% of 1,007 respondents admitting that influencers help them temporarily forget about daily realities.
David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky, said that the trend of "parasocial" virtual relationships is "understandable" given the social isolation brought about by the pandemic.
And while there is nothing wrong with it, he warned of the risks of oversharing on social media.
"It is understandable with the lockdowns we've all experienced over the past year that people will have gravitated towards online and parasocial relationships to stave off loneliness and boredom, but it's crucial that people are aware of the consequences of oversharing online and are able to take a more balanced approach," he said in a statement.
"This can lead to a huge range of negative and unforeseen consequences -- hacking and phishing attempts, doxing and bullying, online shaming -- the list goes on," he added.
Other findings of the study include:
- 21% of global respondents (31% in SEA) believe they "could be friends" with influencers they follow
- 22% have gone as far as sending a private message to an influencer
- 34% (56% in SEA) have met some of the influencers they follow in real life
- 77% said they learn from the influencers they follow in areas such as health, hobbies, style, and news
- 55% said following famous personalities online offer them a relationship they do not have with anyone else
- 44% said they are "dependent" on influencer content
- 17% said they feel a sense of absence if they do not deal with influencers
- Social media users in SEA have sought direct contact most commonly by commenting on influencers' posts (46%) or reacting to their posts and stories (39%)
- Other ways that global respondents have interacted with influencers the follow include attending the events they have hosted (19%), sending fan art (16%), and calling their agents directly (12%)
TYPES OF SOCIAL MEDIA USERS
According to Kaspersky's study, 59% of respondents worldwide said social media has provided a vital connection for them during the pandemic.
This figure was highest among those aged 18-34 (71%).
People from Vietnam (94%) and South Africa (79%) are the most likely to say social media is important to them, with 33% worldwide believing they have become less tolerant to people online during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Kasperky has also identified five types of social media users.
These include Savvy Socials (those who limit their time online and keep posts to a minimum), Breezy Posters (those who post prolifically over relatively short periods of activity), Oversharers (those who virtually live online and post like crazy), Lurkers (those who spend a lot of time on social, but are only there to surf and not to comment), and Offliners (those who are either inactive, never joined, or deleted many of their social media accounts).