Of the many paradoxes that have emerged from the pandemic's impact on society, commerce and media consumption, there's one that the consumer insights team at Mindshare has begun tracking closely in recent weeks.
The team has been tracking both American consumer sentiment as well as self-reported behaviors, and the paradox is perhaps best illustrated by the chart above. It shows that as the pandemic progresses stuck-at-home Americans are spending increasingly less time with friends and family, but their use of social media is expanding at an even higher rate.
The findings belie the metaphor of "social distancing," and indicate that a better term might be "social redistribution" -- from the physical world to the virtual one.
Families and friends are, in fact, staying connected, but they are using digital media increasingly to do so, including online video conferencing, chat, and conventional social media postings.
The other not-so-surprising paradox identified from the Mindshare study, now in its fourth week of tracking, is that as the crisis progresses, American consumers are feeling increasingly isolated, cut-off and "worried," "stressed," "anxious," "frustrated," "scared," "sad," and "overwhelmed."
"We’ve been tracking the impact of coronavirus on Americans for four weeks now, so we’ve seen the changes in how it’s affecting every aspect of their lives – from how they spend their time, to what they miss about life before, and how they feel about brands pitching in," explains Alexis Fragale, director of consumer insights at Mindshare USA, noting: "Four weeks in, people are increasingly worried about the uncertain future that awaits them, not only from a health perspective, but now from an economic perspective as well. Americans are spending more time at home with the continued cancelation of live events, banning of group activities, and enforcement of social distancing. And they’re missing the in-person connection of being together with their friends, family, and coworkers – whether that’s going out to meals, running errands, or giving/receiving hugs."
The report drills into a variety of other changes that the anxiety, social isolation and life and work disruptions the health crisis are having on Americans use of media and their relationship with brand marketing, but the long-term impact may not be fathomable for some time to come.
"With our routines broken, we see new habits emerging and everyone getting creative to help solve for this – whether that’s through virtual togetherness via video-chatting, interacting with celebrity/influencers live on social media, or participating in a streamed fitness class," Mindshare's Fragale, explains, adding: "Trends around self-care continue as Americans are looking for ways to relieve their stress, from picking up hobbies and buying self-care supplies, to cooking more and trying out new recipes (like TikTok-famous Dalgona coffee), to spending more time online and binge watching shows. This is an area that brands can help people with – over the weeks we’ve seen the number of people who want brands to provide humorous content nearly double (9% to 19%, and higher for younger adults), and nearly half want tips on how to stay healthy or relieve stress."