Waiting - is a part of Intense Living
By Soumick Nag, Vice President, Insights Division, Kantar | Macneil Chowdhury, Executive Vice President, Insights Division, Kantar
People are being accustomed to waking up to the ominous ‘BREAKING NEWS’ notification – ‘COVID-19 cases cross 20000’ or ‘Sensex Crashes 2,000 points amid global recession fears’. The tumult of the world is unfolding on our myriad screens. The looming notification no more induces a dopamine rush… it elicits a melancholy that sobers us down only to reset our hopes till the next notification.
In an addictive, concurrent cycle of hope and despair - you feel for the broken hearts in Italy, the trapped New Yorkers, the migrants and daily wage earners in our cities in India… also pray for the nascent signs of hope in the devastating carnage – a phased lifting of the lockdowns, dauntless doctors and frontline staff, pharmaceutical companies pressing to find vaccines.
Witnessing the rise of the nation state as powerful signs of raw, human solidarity rise above divisive agendas. Revelling in the humanitarian crisis as ‘people’ with everything to lose.
The spirit to thrive and not just survive in this paradox of surrealism – the question some are asking of themselves is - are we the protagonists in the story of mankind or the antagonists in the story of nature? But to believe that nature is healing itself through human pandemic is anarchical.
In these times with more existential questions than answers, our response system is being shaped by two powerful forces - Introspection and Fluidity. These forces are changing our way of life and may influence how we live in the days beyond this crisis.
Introspection- has been the immediate reaction during this period of lockdown
Humans have been like machines run by a systematic algorithm: Monday to Friday | Saturday - Sunday… the algorithm is halted. COVID-19 has encouraged us to abandon the programmed lens and find a new way of seeing the world beyond this crisis. Making people reflective, giving insight to who we are and what we need and what we don’t.
Despite living at a breakneck speed for so long, we are reminded of the old Arabic saying – that the soul invariably travels at the speed of a camel. Whatever one has gathered till now… books, memorabilia, memories are gaining attention. Lockdown days are being spent as a pitstop… revisiting life that has been spent… the experiences, the things we did and have missed doing.
Yet while we reflect, we also look towards the future beyond these uncertain times. Things may change and one needs to be adaptive to new realities. Borrowing from Umberto Eco’s Anti-Library, the unread books are going to be more valuable to our lives than the read ones – such is the sign of the times.
Fluidity - is our response to the crisis
In Darwin’s words, it’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. Fluidity is the new custom. Fluidity is our response to the crisis reflecting in the altered course of our everyday living. Now, and perhaps well beyond.
Creating a world within four walls people are constantly calculating the ‘fluidity of spaces’ and their multiple purposes. The new coping mechanism is to delineate mental microcosms from physical spaces.
New codes of connections are evolving as people reclaim their personal space. In queues, while taking a bus, during walks people are practicing physical distancing. When the crisis passes, will we hold on to our newfound sense of private space and the decorum it brings with it? Will it change the physical codes of bonding, friendship?
Prudence and frugality are being practiced by all demographics redefining the meaning of currency. The flex of money has temporarily lost some of its value while people sit at home sequestered from the world. All must partake in the weekly grocery run for essentials, all must wait in line at the ATMs and hospitals, and all must prepare for a tomorrow of uncertainty. “The virus does not discriminate” – an idea to jettison the political, socio-economic and wealth disparities and implore the people to fight a plague against ‘humanity’. The temporary redundancy of money is a humble equalizer. In this time, ‘immunity’ and ‘sensibility’ are the most powerful currencies.
This interplay of Introspection and Fluidity is leading to an interesting renormalization of identity. Deprivation is redefining the attitude and behaviour norms. Needs and wants, income and expenses and the list of ‘essentials’ are being revisited. Dave Hollis, CEO of the Hollis Company, that helps people build better lives, says – “in this rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”
The status quo has been challenged; requiring alternative ways to work, earn, love, nourish.
A new change model is emerging for a new normal post COVID-19. People, as individuals are evolving through this cycle of change - floating, oscillating, trying to find their space.
*Echoist – a warm hearted persona who is humble, feels unsettled by attention and is shy of narcissism
This journey through Introspection and Fluidity is a learning curve. It may lead to discoveries and one may change on the other side. Like people, brands too must practice the technique of Introspection to rethink the new Need-Want matrix that is likely to emerge out of the change model.
Brands must be Fluid to change their narrative; create new meaning in people’s lives.
Up next, it will be intriguing to study how the different generations evolve through this change model and adapt to the new realities. Their vulnerabilities are likely to be different - the Silver Hair, the affluent aged who were just about living their second youth; are they being made to feel the most dispensable? How will they cope?
GenZ, the immersive experience seekers, how will they alter their path? Will they seek more singular experiences?
“One’s doing well if age improves even slightly one’s capacity to hold on to that vital truism - This too shall pass," - Alain de Botton, Philosopher & Author