MEETING FRIENDSHIP GROUPS & SPONTANEOUS PLANS
One of the most common responses from young people about what ‘first’ they are most excited for, revolved around their friendship groups. Having spent so much time meeting with smaller offshoots, the moment EVERYONE can be together again is highly anticipated: “I can’t wait for the first time the whole group can come together again…To meet all the girls and chat and laugh about stupid stuff and make plans for fun exciting trips and nights out!!” Susie, 29.
Bigger family gatherings are also high on the agenda of some who are really looking forward to seeing their extended family. Some haven’t seen aunts or uncles or cousins since Covid-19 hit. For many, seeing immediate or extended family and friends means being able to travel between countries - this means keeping constant watch over vaccine passport news or travel corridor announcements. This is a hugely emotional ‘first’ many are hoping to plan in the coming months.
Being able to be a bit more spontaneous with your plans is also anticipated: “I’m looking forward to the element of not really having a plan for the weekend but assuming you’ll be doing lots, like heading out for the day and seeing where it takes you and meeting up with people without having to meticulously plan and book things. I HATE planning things.” Jen, 28
The day to day chats that come with ‘seeing where the day takes you’ is also something youth called out…As mask mandates ease, many are also looking forward to not having to wear masks indoors: “I miss all the little chats you have with random people, like cafes, clubs, bars, the bus...masks have made everything a little more impersonal and isolated. I’m looking forward to going anywhere without a mask.” Anna, 26
Generally, there is a sense of excitement to be able to do more with your day. There’s excitement and apprehension about this - as Twitter user @katierpacker puts it:
“me before the pandemic: I can do a full day of work and go for drinks and dinner after and then do 4 more full days of work with events and nights out on the weekend and maybe even a workout in the week
me now: if I move I will need to sleep for 14 hours to recover”
Hugs are also a big one: “I used to hug everyone that I met. I really miss that.” Jess, 30.
New young ‘lockdown’ mums are especially looking forward to the day that it's safe for friends to be able to hold and snuggle their new baby.
HOBBIES, SHOPPING & LIVE ENTERTAINMENT
Getting back to hobbies and group entertainment occasions is on nearly everyone’s radar. Lots of would-be regular cinema goers are ready to get back to the big screen - for some, this was a weekly activity that is still missed. Some are simply excited to be able to get active with friends by playing sports together again - while also anticipating the bigger entertainment events, like live football matches:
“I’m looking forward to the first football match I can go to. It’ll be great to not have the fake fan noises in the background of the TV, and to be able to feel that stadium experience. Also looking forward to playing five aside with my friends. It’s just opened up again and everyone is very unfit. ” Mark 25
For others, the retail return is another chance to feel more like themselves again, and connect with people they haven’t been able to over the last while:
“My first port of call for when some of our fave businesses reopen soon will definitely be the charity shops. I can’t wait to start off in Rathmines and make my way into town, no shop left behind no rail left un-raided! I can’t wait to see what pieces people have parted with, I can’t wait to see the familiar faces of the loyal volunteers working the floor and most importantly I can’t wait to hopefully grab some gorge bits! Catch me running around Dublin bopping from place to place in a fabulous fit from the beloved chazza’s! I CANT WAIT!” Billy, Account Executive, PR & Advocacy, THINKHOUSE
Other retail experiences are simply about feeling good in your own skin again!
“I can’t wait to get my nails done again so I don’t have gremlin hands anymore!!” Susie, 29
FIRST BIG NIGHT OUT
Circus nightclub in the UK made headlines at the beginning of the month as clubbers returned as part of a trial (ticket-holders have not needed to socially distance or wear face coverings, but they did need proof of a negative COVID test result before being allowed in). Most are yet to experience the return to the dancefloor. Going “Out-Out” is getting serious hype:
“I cannot f*cking wait to go on a disgusting sweaty night out. One where somebody trips and pours a pint of cider down my back. I am so excited to go out until 5am, dancing to stupid music and eat takeaway off somebody’s shoe at the end… I’m also really looking forward to going on holidays.” Jess, 30
“I am looking forward to a good old fashioned mauldy session.” Jennie, 27
While the ‘firsts’ young people are looking forward to are varied, most come back to wanting to feel more like themselves again - it's all about reclaiming the parts of yourself that were missing, and celebrating this together. For some, the anticipation of these firsts are nice-to-haves, and for others there is a deeper emotional need associated.
For brands activating in socialising occasions it’s good to recognise that these ‘first’ moments are happening at different times for people and the celebratory feeling around them can last over a number of weeks or months as individuals emerge depending on their own timeline and sense of comfort. Energy levels for social occasions may vary from person to person. We’re all out of habit in different ways! As excitement builds, think about how you could harness this anticipation with fans, or how you could help them mark their ‘firsts’ in meaningful ways.
Not everything young people are looking forward to is full of shiny positivity - celebrating the messy scenarios that come with crowds or late nights could be a different way to approach communications around coming back together.