The 'Next Normal' is a term we're seeing everywhere right now. But what exactly is the next normal? Using our custom-built social listening tool we analysed over one million Instagram posts from May and June this year – the height of the COVID-19 lockdown – to find out.
Semiotic analysis of Instagram posts from three different languages; English, French and Italian, offer a unique insight into what people were thinking and feeling during the past few months.
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1. The New Me
COVID-19 is the equivalent of 20 years worth of new year’s resolutions all rolled into one. The more restrictive lifestyle and lack of normal social interaction saw many choose to refocus on both their physical and mental health. Self-care became the norm.
At the start of lockdown 'Working Out' was perhaps the biggest part of this, with 30-day handstand/yoga/squat challenges appearing in feeds across the world. One of the most successful brands to embrace this new-found interest in at-home fitness was Joe Wicks – AKA The Body Coach. #PEwithJoe totalled 78 workouts, with 60 million views and 2,271 years of total watch time.
But working out at home is just one part of the 'New Me'. As it becomes apparent that COVID-19 is going to last much longer than initially thought, people are embracing a slower pace of life and 'Relaxation and Me Time' is shining through. Images from our analysis show that people have embraced being forced to relax and just enjoy the moment, and are keen to continue living this way.
2. New Skills
In a highly digitised but somewhat removed environment, the value of tangible creation has increased considerably thanks to the pandemic. Coronavirus has forced people to spend more time at home and discover (or rediscover) ways to fill their time.
Home cooking, crafts, gardening and homemade mask making have been some of the major trends that we've seen in this area. With so much time and resources spent on acquiring these new skills – and the fact that COVID-19 and lockdowns are likely to continue for the foreseeable future – these trends are far from fads.
Take gardening for example. Garden centres were originally deemed non-essential businesses in the UK and were unable to open from March-June. But even this didn't curb people's green fingers.
Many garden centres introduced new online ordering systems to meet demand with Garden Organic, a charity promoting organic gardening, having to suspend online orders at one stage, to clear a backlog (source: The Independent). Meanwhile, arts and crafts supplier Hobbycraft's online sales tripled as people sought new hobbies and creative outlets.
3. New Habitat
Perhaps one of the less obvious impacts of the Next Normal is on the physical layout and purpose of our homes. With home working becoming the norm, areas of the home that were previously obsolete have been given a new lease of life. Hallways are now offices, nooks are now craft areas, kitchens are now classrooms. Functionality has gained prominence over aesthetic.
With a large number of people set to continue to work from home, this new habitat is here to stay. The trend even had a reverse impact with stories of companies such as Australia's staging company StageKings pivoting to creating affordable, functional home office furniture in order to stay in business.
In our new habitat, we're also keen to make more of any outdoor space we have (no matter how small) and spend more time and effort on curation and styling. The aim? To make the home a place we genuinely want to spend (a lot) of time in.
4. New Household Dynamics
Working from home and homeschooling hasn't just impacted the physical habitat of the homes we live in, but the dynamics of the people who live within them. A home is no longer just a place to relax, it is an office, a classroom and much more besides.
Space modularity within the home has become more important as the family unit adapts to the Next Normal of working and schooling at home. It's important that people can consolidate this new normality with traditional dynamics within the home such as family bonding and interaction.
There's a huge opportunity for brands to assist with this through the curation of products and sharing of advice that helps with this new environment. IKEA is an excellent example of this with content such as desk styling images appearing more frequently on the brand's Instagram feed and user-generated content articles curating their products.
5. New Social Life
Our social lives have been hit hard by the lockdown. As much as we long for our usual face-to-face interaction, this normality is still likely to be a long way off. While we have of course been making the most of digital platforms to interact, as lockdowns ease we are beginning to see glimpses of life away from the screen.
Posts include those centred on social distancing and its impact on relationships, alongside the sharing of things like eating out and shopping and how it's changed. The sentiment is positive; with people celebrating these interactions no matter what restrictions they may have surrounding them.
Our analysis also shows a new-found love for discovering our own neighbourhoods and supporting our own communities. Supportive signs for NHS workers, kindness rocks snaking their way through local parks and plenty more besides, the closer sense of community is perhaps the biggest silver lining of this pandemic.