Introduction: Our society faces new challenges nowadays. The widespread usage of mobile communications and its availability attracts more and more users to the worldwide network. The current generation is unable to isolate themselves from their internet connected gadgets. Clearly, the world is becoming more and more digital and dependent on information and communication technology (ICT). On the one hand, it gives the opportunity to communicate and removes all borders between cities and even continents. On the other hand, youth over-dependence on technology could lead to impaired consciousness, change in mental processes, and the problems of the Googlization of our society. The formation of young people’s social capital in the modern society is influenced by information and communication technology and new communication possibilities. Notably, the transformation of communication processes was caused not only by the common availability of communication means and constantly growing network coverage areas, but also by the availability of social networks as the main means of communication among youngsters. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and self-isolation, communication between young people has become even more dependent on ICT. The means and ways of the formation of human and social capital have also changed.
Aim: The main aim of the research is the evaluation of the influence of information and communication technology on the formation of social capital of young people, as well as the study of the amount of time spent on ICT usage for studying versus communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Materials and methods: This research was conducted among young people ages 18-38 and involved more than 500 participants (46% of whom were men and 54% women), who work or study in small or medium-sized cities, as well as in rural areas in the south east of the Moscow Region (Russia). The survey was conducted in the beginning of 2021 (after Russia lifted its lockdown restrictions). Participants were as follows: 21% were secondary school students, 35% were higher education students, 26% were college students, and 18% were working youth. The methods used were custom survey, data processing algorithm, and a part of the longitudinal analysis toolbox known as, “The influence of information and communication technology on youth’s health”.
Results: To compare the research results (based on the custom longitudinal analysis toolbox, which has been used for 10 years in this region), the data for 2020 (before the COVID-19 pandemic) and 2015 were used. The results showed that information and communication technology have become the main means of communication in the modern society during the pandemic, its use pervades all areas, from distant learning to working from home. Also, while modern technology provided more ways of communication even before the pandemic, it also became the main means of communication, especially during the period of hard lockdowns, thereby, helping to preserve and develop social capital. The pandemic also showed the difference in the access to and the usage of ICT by individuals and households. Particularly, people in areas with poor network coverage have a lower possibility of using internet-connected mobile devices. In addition, the percentage of people using information and communication technology for studying has grown up to 76% during the pandemic. Almost half of the survey participants started communicating with friends using information and communication technology more often during their self-isolation. While 13% of all participants think it is easier to use ICT to communicate, 90% of all respondents use social media for communication.
Conclusions: The pandemic triggered the development and wider usage of information and communication technology, which influence the formation of social capital greatly. The digitalization processes that took place before COVID-19 have strengthened information processes. Opportunities for the formation of social capital of young people have changed as they adapted to the pandemic restrictions (and distancing) that was imposed on the society. The consequences of such changes require a special attention and further research. This research represents a kind of iteration on this complex topic, and it should be analyzed further.
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