A Discover.ai exploration of the long term impact of isolation, loneliness and separation, and the implications for brands
Why was the research conducted?COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact on our society and lives. We find ourselves living in a new lexicon of experience from ‘social distancing’ to ‘self-isolation’ and these profoundly new ways of living are having a very immediate impact on us all.
But we are most likely at the beginning of a journey of change…a journey that will be determined in the long term by how this experience actually changes our behaviours, our attitudes and our needs. Like many people we wondered what might lie ahead once the immediate impact of COVID-19 has hopefully faded…will there be a ‘new normal’?
There is no crystal ball and we can’t expect people in the middle of such intense times to be able to help us predict what might happen. Perhaps though we can instead learn from the isolation, separation and loneliness that people experience in other areas of their lives. Could these exceptional experiences that people share online in difficult times offer us insights; guide and help us as we try and make sense of our current exceptional experience?
How was the research conducted?Our approach is about discovery; sampling online sources that will stretch our thinking and a machine learning platform that lets us immerse ourselves deeply into these sources and find the nuggets of insight to answer our question.
For this project we started with conversations about people’s current experiences of social distancing amid the COVID-19 outbreak. But we needed more to stretch our understanding of the long term impacts. We asked ourselves, how can we learn from the isolation, separation and loneliness that people experience in other areas of their lives over longer periods of time. These exceptional experiences that people share online in difficult times might offer us insights; guide and help us as we try and make sense of what a ‘new normal’ might look like, once this acute phase has hopefully passed.
Through our Discover.ai platform, we carefully and sensitively analysed a diverse set of stories and experiences, from hundreds of blogs, forums and websites. Our methodology allowed us to collate millions of words of content, across any market and any language, and to use the power of machine learning to assist a Strategist on our team to quickly and make connections and draw inferences and implications.
The experiences we chose to explore in this research included divorce, imprisonment, losing your life partner, suffering from severe illness, mental health issues, working in isolating jobs, self-isolating through adventure, retirement and ageing and loneliness. These are not easy experiences for anyone, and from the shared online conversations and resources we saw, there were very human stories of trauma, uncertainty, loss…but also of coping, resilience and renewal.
What are the key findings of the research?We found 4 major human insight themes that we think will define the 'new normal' and have implications for brands:
BEING STRONGER IN YOURSELF - We learnt that once people have been through more extreme & challenging experiences in their lives, survived and come out stronger the other side, they have the knowledge and experience to shape their lives
RE-DEFINING WHO YOU ARE - We learnt that confronting difficult times forces you to confront yourself, get to know who you really are, and use this knowledge to take you forward positively into the future.
FORGING POWERFUL SOCIAL BONDS - We learnt that in difficult times we rely on other people more than ever, giving us support and enriching our lives in all kinds of ways… social connection becomes key to our lives.
FINDING MORE MEANING IN EXPERIENCES - We learnt that life is lived in the day to day, and extreme circumstances can lend even more significance to how these experiences play out and so how we feel about our lives.
Contributor's Name: Marc Cohen