Despite social distancing, quarantining and isolation, the average UK consumers has been so keen to stay connected to others that they made 156 more calls, shared an extra 104 social posts and sent 364 more WhatsApp messages than they did in 2019.
A 2,000-person study by Three UK finds that, despite ever-changing lockdown regulations, phones have helped people cling on to a bit of normality.
Some 4.7 million phones have been given to loved ones to help them stay connected and 36% admitted they have relied on their phone completely to maintain a social life during these trying times.
Over-55s were more likely to look for ways to connect virtually than any other age group due to having to self-isolate and quarantine. As such, Three’s research found their phones have brought them closer to loved ones in 2020, with almost half agreeing that their mobiles have seen more use this year than ever. A quarter also said it has helped to develop closer bonds with family who they would not have spoken to so much otherwise.
Despite lockdown or tier restrictions, many people’s social calendars remained hectic and quick catch ups easily became landmark events that required diary invites. Throughout the year, 10.9 million of us took part in at least one (but often several) virtual quizzes as we looked for ways to jazz up video calls with friends and family. Singles hankering for a romantic connection, or perhaps a harmless flirt, sent 88.2 million messages on dating apps every week. During the summer when restrictions were lighter, we got together in small groups and placed around nine million drinks orders at pubs and restaurants through our mobiles.
Honey Langcaster-James, psychologist, wellbeing expert and broadcaster, explains: “The greatest thing about this research is that it shows how the nation has stood strong and creatively found ways to stay connected to our loved ones. No one could have predicted that our trusty phone would be at the crux of everything important to us, enabling us to remain socially engaged and feel secure in the knowledge that even though times may be hard, we are never truly alone. There is always someone out there, be it on social media, or on a helpline, or just by calling someone we care about: we just have to pick up the phone and reach out.”
The Three study also shed light on several revealing insights regarding the nation’s connectivity habits at home during 2020.
Having the kids stuck at home for much of 2020 has been challenging and over half of UK mums were happy to admit that they made things a little easier on themselves by using Google to search for answers to their children’s schoolwork. Dads, perhaps keen to keep up appearances, were more reticent with just two-fifths willing to say that they needed a helping hand getting to the answers.
After swapping offices for lounges, bedrooms or even a desk space under the stairs, a sheepish 3.2 million workers admitted to avoiding turning their camera on during video calls because they were still in their PJs – something that 36% of women were willing to put their hand up to compared to 25% of men.
Women were also shown to be more health conscious than men, with twice the number of women using their phones for exercise in a bid to keep fit while unable to go to the gym. Meanwhile, as home improvements skyrocketed during lockdown, one in six men were busy photographing and sharing their latest DIY endeavours on social media.
Aislinn O’Connor, Marketing Director at Three, says: “Our report truly reflects the mood of the nation this year and proves how now, more than ever, our mobiles are far more than just the ability to simply to make and receive calls and texts. They have been a lifeline for many and helped to keep our spirits high at times where we’ve needed it most. From the sheer number of video calls made and huge increase in messages sent – it’s safe to say the only thing not on lockdown has been our phones. They’ve been through a lot this year, it might be time for a new one!”