The COVID-19 im­pact on the youth: Anal­y­sis, trends and in­sight

Business Day (Nigeria) - - COMMENT - GOKE IYIOLA

‘ As the govern­ment and peo­ple of dif­fer­ent na­tions work to­gether to find so­lu­tions, Gen XYZ has an op­por­tu­nity and in­deed the re­spon­si­bil­ity to seize the mo­ment to shape our “new nor­mal”. The best way to own the fu­ture is to cre­ate it

Since the in­tru­sive ar­rival on earth of the in­fa­mous and un­wanted vis­i­tor – the malev­o­lent Coro­n­avirus, more pop­u­larly known as COVID-19; life as lived be­fore has not and cer­tainly can never be the same again.

It started in De­cem­ber 2019, as some sort of in­ci­dent of in­fec­tion broke out in the city of Wuhan in far­away China. Some the­o­ries about what re­ally is hap­pen­ing be­gan to fil­ter out. Con­spir­acy the­o­ries. There was a sug­ges­tion that it was an ac­ci­den­tal break­out from a sci­ence and re­search lab­o­ra­tory. An­other pos­tu­lated high-level es­pi­onage and bi­o­log­i­cal weapons; yet an­other linked it to ad­vance in com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy, pre­cisely the su­per­fast 5G-net­work in­no­va­tion. How­ever, ex­perts in sci­ence and medicine in­sisted it was an en­demic break­out of a new strain of the Coro­n­avirus that had lived with man for ages.

Sud­denly, what ap­peared to rest of the world as a lo­calised en­demic in a province of China, grew some vir­u­lent wings ‘overnight’ and by the first quar­ter of 2020 had fos­tered it­self on al­most all the na­tions across the face of the known world; mu­tat­ing in a most fear­ful man­ner to a global pan­demic.

Gov­ern­ments be­gan to re­act to this state of emer­gency that had foisted it­self so swiftly and with­out warn­ing. Af­fected cities were put un­der to­tal lock­down and in­fected per­sons quar­an­tined. There was panic and fear es­pe­cially as there was no known treat­ment or one that could be de­vel­oped quickly in re­sponse. In a jiffy, life had come to halt on all con­ti­nents – govern­ment of­fices, busi­nesses, and work­places, recre­ation cen­tres, schools, mar­kets; name it, was shut down. Life moved, im­promptu, into a to­tally dis­rup­tive and full lock­down in days. A new kind of war was on.

The youth pop­u­la­tion, largely from the Gen XYZ ap­pears to have been caught, and heav­ily so, in the im­pact of this new phe­nom­ena. Gen X refers to those within the ages of 38 -56 years. Gen Y, also known as “mil­len­ni­als”, 24 – 37 and Gen Z, the 16-23 year olds. With fam­ily life dis­rupted and eco­nomic pres­sure mount­ing due to in­abil­ity to go to work or carry out busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties; cou­pled with the un­cer­tainty of when and if life will go back to nor­mal; days rolling into weeks and week into months, a “new nor­mal be­gan to emerge”.

In­sight

Be­havioural pat­terns and life­style took on a dif­fer­ent shape with Gen XYZ, gen­er­ally and in more spe­cific ways that are pos­i­tive and not so pos­i­tive.

Re­stricted move­ment

The first ob­vi­ous im­pact was the se­vere re­stric­tion on the move­ment of an oth­er­wise very mo­bile, ‘up and about’ peo­ple. Sud­denly, you could not as much as step out of your home, at best your street. No vis­it­ing or vis­i­tors even amongst friends and neigh­bours. The only ex­cuse to leave home was to get the now scarce food, gro­cery and house­hold es­sen­tials. Ini­tially, it was an op­por­tu­nity for fam­i­lies to bond and fi­nally spend the ever-elu­sive time to­gether. How­ever, in some cases, rest­less­ness and ir­ri­ta­tion be­gan to cre­ate ten­sion, as it seemed ev­ery­one was cramped into a space for too long. To some, it was like pri­son.

Eco­nomic pres­sure

Sec­ond is the eco­nomic pres­sure. Busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties and work had lit­er­ally shut down ex­cept for those, whose man­ner of oc­cu­pa­tion af­forded them the for­tune of be­ing able to work from home. Con­se­quently, in­comes dropped or in some cases ceased al­to­gether. Sav­ings were de­plet­ing fast and for those who had not sub­scribed to elec­tronic/dig­i­tal bank­ing, they could not ac­cess their funds – banks had also shut their doors.

Dis­rup­tion of ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem

Third and very crit­i­cal is the dis­rup­tion of the ed­u­ca­tional cal­en­dar and of course the ed­u­ca­tion of those in school.

The un­pre­dictabil­ity of when school will re­sume, brought anx­i­ety to many, leav­ing them with a sense of stag­na­tion and be­ing cut off from their usual cir­cle of re­la­tion­ship. Some ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions ini­ti­ated on­line school­ing to carry on as much aca­demic work that was pos­si­ble. Zoom, MS Team and other ap­pli­ca­tions were de­ployed.

Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions Depart­ment of Eco­nomic and So­cial Af­fairs Youth (UNDESA) “The ma­jor­ity of stu­dents in our ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions to­day are from Gen­er­a­tion Z, a gen­er­a­tion that has grown up in a truly glob­alised world. This gen­er­a­tion, the old­est of whom are now 25 years old, is likely to be re­flect­ing on their ed­u­ca­tion as a re­sult of a truly global pan­demic, with many fac­ing can­celled exams, sport­ing events and even grad­u­a­tion.

This gen­er­a­tion is de­nied by tech­nol­ogy, where the terms FOBA (Fear of Be­ing Alone) and FOMO (Fear of Miss­ing Out) ex­press their ex­pec­ta­tion of in­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion and feed­back – ef­fected through apps like In­stant Mes­sen­ger, Snapchat and What­sapp. That in­cludes from par­ents and ed­u­ca­tors, some­thing be­ing am­pli­fied with the cur­rent re­mote learn­ing.” Par­ents and guardians are equally both­ered as some fees had been paid, in some in­stance loans, and they are now not sure how that plays out if and when schools re­sume.

Well­ness

The im­pact of all high­lighted above, on the psy­che and men­tal well­ness of the so­ci­ety, is still be­ing stud­ied. A trend that was also ob­served was an in­crease in sex­ual ac­tiv­i­ties and the use of recre­ational drugs amongst young peo­ple. This em­anated from the ex­ces­sive amount of idle time and the re­sul­tant bore­dom. A good num­ber of young adults, ei­ther in the up­scale-gated res­i­den­tial es­tates or the densely pop­u­lated slums, in­creased their in­dul­gence in these prac­tices in what ap­pears to be a cop­ing mech­a­nism in the face of cir­cum­stances the pan­demic had thrown up.

Vol­un­teer­ing

Hu­mans, be­ing ver­sa­tile and able to adapt, are evolv­ing new ways to live and make the most of the preva­lent sit­u­a­tion. There are re­ports of Gen XYZ vol­un­teer­ing and col­lab­o­rat­ing with the govern­ment and non-gov­ern­men­tal sec­tor on ini­tia­tives to sup­port their com­mu­ni­ties such as dis­tribut­ing food, medicine and sup­plies to the vul­ner­a­ble. Some are de­vel­op­ing new tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tions to fight the pan­demic.

On­line be­hav­iour

Fur­ther­more, the pan­demic sce­nario shap­ing the life of Gen XYZ is the area of dig­i­tal me­dia and gen­eral on­line be­hav­iour. The forced stay at home has re­sulted in the gen­er­a­tion un­der dis­course hav­ing more time to con­sume, cre­ate and con­trib­ute more con­tent on­line. Ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary stud­ies and ob­ser­va­tions, over­all In­ter­net us­age has gone up. So­cial­is­ing and work are be­ing re­shaped as our new nor­mal and pri­mary method for con­nect­ing, con­sum­ing and com­merce is now dig­i­tal. Meet­ings, even con­certs are held on line. As a fact, engi­neers at Zoom are re­port­edly stretched, hav­ing to ex­pand ca­pac­ity rapidly, in­stalling new servers by the minute to ac­com­mo­date the surge in the de­mand for their video con­fer­enc­ing ser­vice.

The young like to en­ter­tain them­selves by play­ing games on their mo­biles and com­put­ers. Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey con­ducted by Vis­ual Cap­i­tal­ist on 4000 peo­ple, aged 16 – 64, in the United King­dom and the United States of Amer­ica; more than 50 per­cent of Gen Z are con­sum­ing sig­nif­i­cantly more on­line video than be­fore COVID-19; 80 per­cent also con­sumed more con­tent – broad­cast TV and on­line videos (Youtube and Tiktok be­ing pri­mary medi­ums across gen­er­a­tions)

In­creased in­ter­est in news

Also re­ported is the in­creased in­ter­est in news by a gen­er­a­tion who or­di­nar­ily were more fo­cused on en­ter­tain­ment and nec­es­sary aca­demic or in­come re­lated con­tent. This is fu­elled by the need to be in­formed and gain some mea­sure of cer­tainty and as­sur­ance on the sit­u­a­tion and the di­rec­tion it is head­ing.

Note: the rest of this ar­ti­cle con­tin­ues in the on­line edi­tion of Busi­ness Day @ https://busi­ness­day.ng

Iyiola is the COO, 7Edge LLC

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