The global pandemic has altered more than the way we travel, the way we do business and the way shop at Costco. It has also changed our personalities, according to a new study by Oracle. A representative survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers found the harsh circumstances wrought by COVID-19 have actually improved us — making many people feel smarter and more open to new experiences as well as more conscientious, but it has also created a sense of disconnection from personal relationships.
Nicer, More Open Personalities Emerge
Many Americans reported an increased conscientiousness, an openness to new experiences, and a new sense of agreeableness.
• A majority of respondents (86 percent) say they saw a change in at least one of the five major “OCEAN” (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion/Extroversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism) personality traits due to COVID-19.
• Becoming more conscientious (40 percent) and open to new experiences (38 percent) were the most common personality changes.
• Despite the stresses of the moment, one-third (33 percent) of people reported increased agreeableness due to the global pandemic.
Effects of Increased Online Activity and New Hobbies
More time at home has led to reading, streaming, and new hobbies, making Americans feel smarter.
• 70 percent of Americans say they have read more and learned more during the pandemic and feel smarter. By comparison, only 30 percent say the chaos of the pandemic distracted them from continuing to learn new things.
• A majority (58 percent) say the media source they spend the most time on is either social media or streaming media. Comparatively, only 20 percent report spending the most time watching traditional television.
• 70 percent also started at least one “trendy” hobby during the pandemic with the three most common hobbies being at-home workouts (46 percent), baking sourdough bread or banana bread (27 percent), making whipped coffee (23 percent), and filming TikTok videos (21 percent).
• And while some binge shopped and accrued more belongings (32 percent), 30 percent of individuals decreased the amount of personal belongings during the pandemic.
Romance and Relationships Redefined
Social distancing and shelter-in-place measures have taken a significant toll on romantic relationships, as well as relationships with friends and family.
• Among the 30 percent of respondents who identified as single, 72 percent say the pandemic altered their romantic outlook in at least one major way, with 61 percent having spent lockdowns alone.
• More than a quarter of Americans (27 percent) changed their relationship status during the pandemic. The most common relationship change was breakup or divorce (19 percent), while only nine percent got engaged or married.
• Among those who went through a breakup or divorce, only 21 percent were able to dissolve the relationship with an in-person conversation.
• Midwesterners were the most likely to have an in-person conversation (35 percent), while the West Coasters were least likely (just 14 percent). Northeasterners were the most likely group to use Zoom to break up (19 percent) and Southwesterners were most likely to end a relationship with ghosting (21 percent).
• One third of Gen Z respondents who had a beak up did so over text message (32 percent).
• 34 percent of Americans report their relationships with friends becoming less connected, compared to 15 percent who became closer with friends. In addition, more than half of Americans (52 percent) reported making no new friends over the past year.
• More than 70 percent of Americans say their relationships with family changed, with 22 percent feeling less connected from their family. However, 30 percent believe the pandemic brought their family closer together.
Americans Adapt to a New Normal
People quickly embraced technology without missing the old work rituals of commuting or being professionally dressed, but we do yearn for post-pandemic experiences.
• Sweatsuits and pajamas have become the most popular attire for Zoom calls for work (38 percent), while 14 percent of Americans say they’ve been partially naked on a work Zoom call.
• Four in ten respondents (43 percent) did not miss the commute to work, business travel (31 percent), or getting dressed or groomed professionally (30 percent).
• The most popular services or habits formed during the pandemic included:
• Delivery (51 percent)
• Increased spending on groceries instead of restaurants (48 percent)
• Contactless / cashless payments (46 percent)
• Curbside pickup (44 percent)
• Virtual doctor appointments (40 percent)
• 40 percent of Americans are planning to continue using these services in the future.
• 96 percent of Americans are planning to enjoy at least one previously restricted activity when it’s safe. The most anticipated activities include indoor dining (74 percent), travel out of state (72 percent), and concerts (61 percent).
• More than half of people in loyalty programs (54 percent) are concerned that accrued rewards points will expire.
“We experienced several paradoxes over the last 13 plus months. We were lonely, yet more connected online. We were bored, yet took on many new hobbies. We were isolated from in-person learning, yet still feel smarter,” said Nate Skinner, senior vice president, Oracle Advertising and Customer Experience (CX). “Our lives were impacted in ways we couldn’t control, and our rapidly changing consumer habits make it hard for brands to keep up. The experiences of the last year will continue to have massive implications on our consumption and buying behavior as we move forward in a post-pandemic era.”
This sample of 2,000 adults (18 years or older) in the United States was surveyed between April 7, 2021 and April 9, 2021. The sample was initially collected with even gender distribution and age distribution that mirrors US consumer demographics.