Being online in the time of COVID-19: Narratives from a sample of young adults and the relationship with well-being

Claudia Venuleo, Simone Rollo, Lucrezia Ferrante, Claudia Marino, Adriano Schimmenti


During the COVID-19 pandemic, Internet might influence daily functioning in both positive and negative ways. Within the conceptual framework of the semiotic cultural psycho-social theory, this study examines the meanings of being online during the COVID-19 pandemic based on narratives collected from Italian university students (Mean age = 22.78; SD = 2.70). Computer-assisted content analysis was used to map the main Dimensions of Meaning (DM) characterizing their texts; ANOVA was used to examine (dis)similarities between DM related to sociodemographic characteristics and connotations of Internet use; Pearson’s correlations were computed to examine the relationships between DM and well-being. Two DM emerged: (a) being online in daily life (‘rupture’ versus ‘continuity’) and (b) Internet functions during the pandemic (‘health emergency’ versus ‘daily activities’). Notably, participants high on the ‘daily activities’ polarity of Internet functions connoted the Internet as a resource and reported higher levels of well-being, whereas participants high on the opposite polarity of “health emergency” connoted the Internet as a refuge and reported lower levels of well-being. Findings suggest that Internet use and its impact on well-being during the pandemic relates to the personal and social cultural meanings attributed to being online.


COVID-19 pandemic; Being online; University students; Meaning; Internet connotation; Well-being.

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