How 12 months in a pandemic changed our daily habits for good
THE FACE explores the weird and not-so-wonderful changes to daily life after a year on plague planet.
Tomorrow, 23rd January, marks the one-year anniversary of Wuhan’s first lockdown. At the time, no one could have foreseen the monumental, epoch-shifting changes to life that were about to happen. From working from home to closing all non-essential shops and hangout spots – life as we know it has changed. But now, one year (and three lockdowns) in, it feels like the strangeness has established itself. Here, THE FACE breaks down 10 things you probably never saw coming this time last year…
Or rather, the lack thereof. In 2020, the office watercooler gossip, post-night out WhatsApp debriefs and mid-grooming session holiday chat was all replaced with: “So how are you finding the end of the world? Isn’t the apocalypse dull?” which, even three lockdowns in, is wearing thinner than ever. Mahzad Hojjat, co-editor of The Psychology of Friendship summed it up to THE FACE earlier this week: “When everyone is working individually in their houses, there’s not much to talk about.” As a result, Zoom pub quizzes are a thing of the past, friendship circles are being streamlined and we’re feeling intense “Are they mad at me?” paranoia. At least there’s always the weather, right?
Celebrities turned government watchdogs
Since the start of the pandemic, the government has changed laws to protect against coronavirus 64 times. Let us repeat that: sixty-four times. Amidst the endless stop-start U‑turning, there have been many, many fuck-ups. For example: refusing to support the free school meals campaign, clapping for carers while freezing public sector pay rises and awarding more than £10 billion of Covid-related contracts to private companies connected to the Tory party. However, standing at the sidelines to call them out are unlikely political pundits: X Factor twins Jedward have been racking up hundreds of retweets for their 150-characters takedowns, footballer Marcus Rashford MBE led a successful #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign that showed up Bojo and cook Jack Monroe continues to investigate the food parcel scandal.
Influencers turned into coronavirus public enemy number one
What were once relatively harmless members of B‑list celebrity culture have become seriously problematic this year. From Love Islanders jetting off to Dubai for, ahem, “work trips”, to LA TikTokers throwing massive parties at their content houses, the internet has turned their back on the things they helped create – like a modern-day remake of Frankenstein. “The way Charli [D’Amelio] even SPOKE out on Live about how she said she’d do better staying home and social distancing, then they all go to the fucking BAHAMAS?” one fan with a now-suspended account on the social media star’s New Year Eve’s getaway. “Could that not wait??? Like it’s OK, take a break from social media, I get it, but you can do that AT HOME.” We hear it.
With no reason to dress up, most of us have spent 2020 in our slobbies. In fact, according to global fashion shopping platform Lyst, in April global searches for joggers grew 123 per cent compared to the same time last year, with gender-neutral brand Les Girls Les Boys reporting a 1000 per cent increase in sales on tracksuits over the same period. Moreover, the fashion industry is responding to the shift, with ready-to-wear brands like Zara releasing entire lines of home-wear, and couture brands like Dries Van Noten releasing their own iterations (with slightly different price tags, mind). Holly Friend, senior foresight writer at The Future Laboratory believes: “In a future occupied by remote working, infrequent socialising and a revaluing of the home, loungewear will continue to become the norm, so much so that any stigma attached to the category will dissipate and may instead become attached to the act of ‘dressing up’.” That being said, just because something’s elasticated doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish.
Over the pandemic, Instagram saw a 13.8 per cent increase in average time spent on the site, with everyone scrolling while forced to keep their distance. Although being stuck at home is pretty bleak for many people, a slate of breakout outsider comedic talent kept everyone’s funnybones suitably tickled. Honourable mention to British-Zimbabwean satirist Munya Chawawa, whose comedy sketches about the government’s handling of the crisis, the mainstream media’s coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests and Katie Hopkins getting banned from Twitter went viral – as well as Elsa Majimbo, whose crisp-eating, sunglass-stunting face-to-cams have had us (and THE FACE cover star Jorja Smith) screaming.
According to StreamElements, the live-streaming sector grew a full 45 per cent between March and April. From Instagram quarantine club nights like Conducta’s Cribs to the high-gloss, high-octane Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054 and Billie Eilish’s Where Do We Go gigs, the way we consumed music has been altered by this shift – and a Netflix-style monthly subscription service called Bandsintown to provide music fans with more than 25 live-streamed gigs a month, is set to drop later this year. Exercise, too. In the 12 weeks up to June, Joe Wicks’ morning PE sessions on YouTube have racked up more than 700 million views, while the London scene’s favourite trainer Ciara Madden now has 8,818 (and counting) members of her Instagram workout squad who get live-streamed daily hourlong home workouts.
Banana bread: the rise and fall, and spike again
For reasons that will probably never be known, Brits went absolutely nuts for banana bread over lockdown 1.0. By the end of April 2020, internet searches for banana bread had soared by 525 per cent and pictures of successful bakes were posted on Instagram more than 45,000 times. Understandably, interest waned by the time we could take advantage of August’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, but by lockdown 2.0 we were once again clearing out supermarkets for all their flour and walnuts and searching recipes for banana bread at a rate similar to mid-July. Holly Friend says of the trend: “In uncertain times, many try to establish some form of control to cope and food is a common aspect of our lives we can take control from.”
A couple of years ago, it was estimated that 44 per cent of UK households owned pets, including 9 million dogs and 8 million cats. If Instagram is anything to go by, lockdown exploded these numbers last year. By May, newspapers reported that the nation was in the grip of a puppy shortage while, in July, insurers Bought By Many reported a 205 per cent increase in policies for cats. This boom has also led to a new age of doggy fashion influencers, with knitwear brand Vereja making jumpers for dogs, streetwear label Palace releasing hyped collars and Ashley Williams putting out puppy sweaters.
“For retailers, the onus continues to shift from fashion to homeware and lifestyle products,” says Holly Friend. “Buying fashion is making consumers anxious, and therefore they are moving their spending to categories that can offer them short-term bursts of happiness. This includes cookware as well as home accessories such as art, as people seek to invest in the place they now spend 99 per cent of their time in.” This probably explains the rise of Instagram furniture dealers, design additions, DIY rug makers and streetwear brands such as Places + Faces starting homeware sections.
Handshakes, hugs, fist-pumps… Most gestures to greet one another include touch, which when you’re in the middle of an infectious pandemic is not ideal. Instead, many are opting for elbow taps (obviously) and footshakes (us neither). “I think people do miss hugging and when things go back to normal, there’s going to be a massive rise in that,” says Patti Wood, a body language expert based in Atlanta. It’s a sentiment that Sirin Kale wrote about in an article for Wired titled, Skin hunger helps explain your desperate longing for human touch. “Without touch, humans deteriorate physically and emotionally. We know from the literature that lack of touch produces very negative consequences for our wellbeing,” says Alberto Gallace, a neuroscientist at the University of Milano-Bicocca, in the feature. “Nature designed this sensory modality to increase our feelings of wellbeing in social environments. It’s only present in social animals that need to be together to optimise their chances of survival.”