The year 2020 was a watershed year: it cleaved a divide between our pre- and post-pandemic lives. Not only did our lifestyles and behaviour change, but those changes are now embedded and have spawned new tribes.
In his 2011 book, Tribes: We need you to lead us, Seth Godin put into context the importance of identifying movements and social subsects.
Since then, the internet and social media have enabled the formation of tribes across the globe. Tribes are no longer confined to a geographical location, but rather a shared mind-set, globally.
It is human nature to seek out like-minded people. The pandemic – as well as geopolitical undercurrents – has ensured that people around the world have had a stronger need to find their tribe. Finding your tribe, whether it is a political or social safe haven, brings comfort in a time of crisis.
In this third edition of Tribes, Flux Trends has identified post-pandemic tribes, with a specific focus on youth tribes, as the pandemic has been particularly cruel for those coming of age, interrupting the traditional milestones that serve as an induction into adulthood, for example, a matric dance, the first year at university or starting a new job.
THE CLASS OF 2020 – LIFE INTERRUPTED
The Class of 2020 is a broad description of a cluster of youth tribes whose lives were derailed by the pandemic. For an adult working population, working from home had its challenges, but, for a younger generation, the absence of crucial social interactions – which shape personal development and emotional intelligence, as well as missed opportunities and job loss – will leave a deep impression and will shape their outlook on life.
Here are samples of these youth tribes. But there are also a host of new tribes that are not just youth related, and there are some overlaps.
THE LBPS (LIVING BACK WITH PARENTS)
A new wave of young adults forced to “boomerang” to their parents. The “boomerang generation” really began with the 2008 great recession, which forced a large number of 25-to 34-year-olds to go back to living with their parents.
This pandemic destroyed jobs, especially in the hospitality industries, where many young people work. Twelve years after the first wave of boomeranging, history repeats itself.
THE SIDE HUSTLERS
Young entrepreneurs (many from the LBP tribe) who can no longer wait for formal employment and have delved headlong into starting a side hustle. Africa Check reported that “in the fourth quarter of 2020, the official unemployment rate for young people was 63.2%, an increase from 61.3% in the third quarter of 2020”.
Many have turned to solution-based innovation and explored new business opportunities linked to recycling or sustainability and, for those with “influencer” credentials, dabbled with “white label” e-commerce or how-to videos on TikTok.
THE KOLS (KEY OPINION LEADERS)
During the pandemic, social justice movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and sustainability issues such as the climate crisis or clean energy rose to prominence on social media platforms.
This saw a switch in influencer mind-set: a move from promoting brands to promoting causes. “Activist influencers” champion causes such as the climate crisis, but some have moved on to politics, and so the title key opinion leader seems more appropriate, rather than mere influencer (which now seems so 2019).
This tribe embraced the solitude of lockdown and are now experiencing “re-entry anxiety”. For this tribe, the fear of missing out (Fomo) has never been a problem, but they are instead experiencing Fogo (fear of going out).
It is not so much a fear of contagion, but more a fear of awkward social interactions. Members of this tribe will continue to wear a mask even after being vaccinated, because a mask creates a psychological barrier and eases social anxiety.
A year of lockdown laid bare mental health issues, and there were many points of impact. People lost their jobs or lost a family member or friends. Some saw the industry they worked in implode, with no sight of recovery.
South Africans, known for their community spirit and generosity, experienced a heightened awareness of the fragility of life. Our empathy radars were activated as our social connections were lost, and they will remain active after the pandemic because a pandemic can never be forgotten, and neither can the emotional scars it leaves behind.
GEN ALPHA RECONFIGURED
Gen Alpha are the toddlers of today – the children of the millennials. If the first seven years of a child’s life are crucial to their development, then experiencing a pandemic during their most formative years will surely reconfigure their perception of life.
Their young lives have already been altered by masks, a fear of contagion, an obsession with hygiene and social distancing being a norm. Gen Alpha’s parents were previously concerned about the impact of technology on their sprog, but perhaps the long-term behavioural effects of the pandemic should now be more of a concern. Who knows what tribes this generation will spawn.