Looking back to look ahead — History in the Tweeting

To understand the pandemic's true, cultural impact, Twitter UK launched a major research project looking at millions of Tweets to understand what has really happened…

Looking back to look ahead — History in the Tweeting

Everything has been affected, from how we work and shop to how we socialise – Covid-19 brought the world to a standstill.

Few saw its impact coming, and no one knows what will happen next. The question of how it will shape or change our lives is still being asked. While we don’t have the answer, what we do have is a lot of Twitter UK data. 

Twitter UK conducted a significant research project to help understand what's been happening, and how that might affect how we move forward. We combined that conversation data with surveys and interviews with the likes of Rory Sutherland, vice chairman at Ogilvy and behavioural scientist, Cait Lamberton, professor of marketing at Wharton, and Elizabeth Bananuka, founder BME PR Pros & Blueprinted among others. The history we refer to is still being Tweeted as we write. 

Twitter identified seven key behaviours and states that have emerged or accelerated during lockdown. They paint a detailed picture of what people experienced and how they continue to behave as the situation evolves.

We have had a rare moment to revisit how we do things. It’s an opportunity to challenge the status quo and to enact change. Brands – as businesses, employers, and communicators – have the ability to shape, break, and design systems and structures. This is fundamental to creating change. Brands can play a significant role in shaping the future.

Home truths
Before we dive into the seven behaviours and states, Twitter's analysis uncovered four home truths, home truths that have framed this research and ground it in realities about this shared experience. 

  1. We don’t know what the future holds, and accept that nobody else does either.

  2. Behaviour change is slow, complex and structural, and as Rory Sutherland said during our interview panel: “Expecting everything to change afterwards is delusional.”

  3. Covid-19 did not happen in a vacuum – it happened to a world already in motion and in many ways acted as a pressure cooker.

  4. There isn’t one Covid-19 story, there are 7.8 billion – many thousands of people have died; many lives have profoundly changed; for others, the impact is less. 

Lastly, the situation is still evolving by the day.

The seven states and behaviours are...

Emotional Tweeting
Lockdown has taken its toll on many of us, impacting us physically and emotionally. We’re experiencing intense and variable emotions in our daily lives. We expect emotions to remain on high, until the situation is fully under control.

Mental health is #TheOtherEpidemic, the effects of which will outlast the pandemic. But, while the fallout has had negative consequences on the vulnerable and frontline workers, there have been positive outcomes, especially when talking mental health.

Embracing the slowdown
With schedules rewritten as we stayed home, lockdown upended hectic lives as everything slowed down. Many took the positives from adapting to this pace of life, and Tweeted an intention to stay slow in the future.

Closer communities
Physically isolated in lockdown, we found some lovely ways to come together. We reconnected with local and digitally distributed communities. We also showed gratitude and support with #ClapForCarers.

Physically distanced, socially connected
We were physically distanced but there was no social distancing whatsoever – thanks to technology we were more socially connected than ever. From video calls to watch-and-listening parties, socialising went fully digital. Some habits will outlive the pandemic.

Creativity unleashed
We’ve seen some serious imagination and creativity during 2020, for some it’s been born from necessity, while for others a desire to entertain. Whatever the reason, we’ve witnessed an explosion…

Messy ethics
People’s ethical behaviour is always complex and contradictory. Covid exacerbated this as we collectively faced new problems. We’re more pragmatic and our priorities have shifted but we also expect even more from ourselves, public figures, and brands.