Data Discoveries

Date: 21 July, 2020

Covid-19 Emotion Tracker. How do we really feel –

Lucy Remitz
Janine McBennett

By Lucy Remitz & Janine McBennett

Strategist & Data and Insight Analyst
Article Image

Welcome back to ‘How Do We Really Feel?’, where we dig deep into the nation’s feelings using our self-taught AI mood tracker along with our weekly focus groups.

SMEs are a huge part of our economy and how they’re doing points to how we as a country are doing. While everyone has been affected by the year’s events, SME owners in particular are at a clear crossroads.

This week, we take a look at this audience to sense-check how they’re feeling, what’s on the horizon, and indications moving forward. Read on for the five key take-outs from our conversations with business owners.

1A contingency for the contingency

Uncertainty was palpable across all conversations. No matter the industry, everyone was at a loss about what’s going to happen and what they can do about it. There was comfort in knowing that everyone is in the same boat - but it meant many business plans are out the window.

2High anxiety

Because of this uncertainty, the level of anxiety was incredibly high for this audience. Without solid plans, it’s difficult for them to get loans or project the future beyond the next few months. In addition to this, most SMEs told us they were close with their employees and not having answers for them was cause for stress. Many SMEs realised their impact on the economy as well, worried about the ripple effect on the community from their staying closed.

3The gift of time – reflect and pivot

The past few months offered us time to slow down and reflect. This was welcome in some ways. Normally, this group is snowed under day-to-day and spending all their energy on their businesses, so a minute to re-evaluate was appreciated. While there was uncertainty, a sense of positivity and a feeling that they are becoming more efficient was felt too.

4When in doubt, adapt

While we talked to all different types of business owners, the consistent theme was the ability to adapt. Having a smaller business with less employees meant the ability to turn around quickly. That agility is paramount right now and is being baked into future plans. For example, one architecture firm we spoke with previously had focused on the travel industry; with the likes of hotels being their main clients. Now, they’re shifting focus to offices to design socially distant spaces.

5The future’s bright

Naturally, there was a lot of discussion around the future. With an impending recession on the horizon, this group wasn’t unaware of the global situation. Having been through a recession recently however, the conversations around this were overall positive, with some understanding what steps need to be taken. This feels different from the last crash – as it’s likely not just the EU who’s in it with us, but the world. Therefore, there was a lot of hope that we will actually weather the storm and come out stronger than we were before.

For the full research deck, relevant quotes and learnings – click here.

Emotion Tracker

With phase 3 of returning the country to normal well underway, and with news just out that phase 4 has been deferred a couple weeks, what has our mood been like as a nation? What are some of the key triggers affecting this? Let’s dive right in and see…

With phase 3 of returning the country to normal well underway, and with news just out that phase 4 has been deferred a couple weeks, what has our mood been like as a nation? What are some of the key triggers affecting this? Let’s dive right in and see…

As we can see from the latest instalment of our Mood Tracker above, there was a significant peak in optimism on the 7th of July at 9am, with the launch of the Covid-19 Tracker App. Users took to their social media platforms first thing in the morning to promote and encourage others to download the app, congratulating the Department of Health and the HSE, and stating

'this app will be huge in controlling this disease.'

This coming together and rallying on social has been something we have seen drive the optimism and pride in the country over the recent months, and once again this is another example of how we use social to unite and drive positive feeling during these turbulent times.

Another key point of conversation we are seeing over recent days surrounds the introduction of a restaurant deposit fee. While many restaurants have had to make this difficult decision to introduce a ‘deposit system’ or a ‘cancellation fee’ in order to combat no-shows, we are noticing that this is being met with a stark contrast of both reluctance, but also encouragement from consumers. One angry user took to Twitter to state,

'restaurants will be doing without my business, have never paid for a meal in a restautant in advance and won’t.'

Other users have 'zero issues with this' and see it as 'no big deal.'

One small restaurant business took to social to state that a weekend of no-shows was 'devastating' to them, and 'deeply inconsiderate.' This was met with hundreds of comments of support from users encouraging the deposit fee and reprimanding this ignorant behaviour of users not considering the effect of no-shows on business,

'such bad manners and little regard for all those working hard to keep customers safe and bring a little bit of joy back into our lives.'

While mostly positive, as mentioned there are some conflicting views to this, with some supporting this no-show behaviour,

'People are afraid of Covid 19. There is no guarantee that bars are safe. Not everything is about profits. 32 new cases today. It is still a serious virus. People have the right to be nervous,'

while others believe that

'loyalty to local businesses needs to be earned, not demanded.'

Many other small businesses offered words of support to their peers, fearing that by offering a deposit they come across as 'the worst in the world,' but that they 'just have to hope for the best in people during this diffcult time.'

It’s hard to avoid the real sense of ‘impending doom’ among users online at the moment – with phase 4 being pushed back, many are fearing that

'Ireland are definitely going to be hit with a new wave.'

This thought process is reflected in the mood tracker, where we are seeing relatively low levels of optimism among users over recent days, with anger and frustration taking its place. As mentioned in the previous edition, Travel continues to be a huge factor that is driving this unease and anger amongst users,

'we were told to hibernate for 3 months, now we’re being told to have staycations, but they’re letting any Tom Dick or Harry into the country.'

Some believe non-essential travel is

'a smack in the face to all of us who have lost loved ones during the pandemic'

and that

'stopping businesses from opening but letting anyone and everyone in is ridiculous.'

What is also interesting is the role that some believe marketing is playing at the moment when it comes to travel,

'I think in the society we've made, almost nothing taps into the reward centre of your brain like travel does. You can't make up for it in your home like a pub, or a restaurant, or a cinema. Marketing has literally convinced it's essential for our SOULS (and maybe it IS),'

but it is believed that

'tempting them at the cost of public health is deeply cruel.'

On the whole, it’s been an interesting few weeks of developments in the country as we further move through this 'new normal’, and we look forward (with a hint of apprehension…) to seeing what’s next. TBC.

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Data Discoveries

Date: 7 July, 2020

Covid-19 Emotion Tracker. How do we really feel – A closer look at live event lovers.

Lucy Remitz
Janine McBennett

By Lucy Remitz & Janine McBennett

Strategist & Data and Insight Analyst
Article Image

Welcome back to ‘How Do We Really Feel?’, where we dig deep into the nation’s feelings using our self-taught AI mood tracker along with our weekly focus groups.

Hairdressers, pubs, restaurants…just some of the hot topics of our virtual and socially distanced conversations over the past few days as Ireland lifted much of the harsh lockdown restrictions in Phase 3 of reopening the country. Now that we are starting to really delve into this “new normal” way of life, though, how has it been affecting our thoughts and feelings?

Not surprisingly, optimism was the prevailing emotion being felt in the lead up to the 29th of June, the day in which we saw the country regain a real sense of normality. Users were expressing their joy and anticipation that some aspects of their social life can resume again - finally the time has come to visit our favourite restaurant and catch a friend for a coffee. Many also took to social to wish businesses luck that were due to open again on the 29th.

However, interestingly we saw a significant spike in ‘fear’ on the 27th-28th of June, the days before the country was set to loosen the lockdown restrictions. When we dive into this emotion, we see that tourism and overseas travel is the root of much of this fear and worry. Users are concerned that with people choosing Ireland as a holiday destination, the virus may begin to spread rapidly once again. In particular, a point of contention for many is UK newspapers promoting Ireland as a “safe” destination for holiday makers. Many were taking to Twitter to urge Dr. Tony Holohan to "keep control of the borders from US and UK visitors please." Another user expressed fear about both the issue of travel, and the opening up of pubs -

“scared out of my life with the thoughts of this virus being re-imported also the pubs re-opening.”

For many, there is the belief that if we allow travel in and out of Ireland this summer,

“we will be in trouble again by October.”

The flip side of this ‘tourism anxiety’, is that we are seeing many users complain that they feel it would be better value for money for them to go overseas, rather than have a staycation in Ireland. For example, one user stated:

“It’s cheaper to fly to France than take the train to Cork. Bananas. Plus once you’re on the continent, everything is cheaper.”

Others are taking to social to directly call out hotels and destinations in Ireland that they believe are overcharging customers, concluding that

“people will keep going abroad when prices are like this at home.”

Feelings of anger and sadness saw some minor peaks during the last few days of June - one key driver of this was ‘RTE Investigates’, which portrayed Ireland’s frontline battle against Covid-19. These feelings peaked at 10pm, after the show was aired. Users deemed it ‘powerful’ and ‘extremely sad’, and took to social to urge anyone who has 'grown complacent' about the virus to watch it immediately:

"Anyone who thinks COVID-19 is a scam or couldn’t affect them needs to watch #rteinvestigates and if you didn’t respect the work frontline @HSELive do and have done for us, you will after that, fantastic people.”

Other users took to social to exclaim their frustration over the rights of nurses in the country,

“Can we PLEASE never let our nurses have to fight for what they deserve, ever again!”

Feelings of fear were also apparent once again after the airing of this programme, with some believing that we are moving too fast in easing restrictions,

“If anyone has any doubt about the havoc that #COVIDー19 can wreak on our lives, please have a look. The last few days have worried me. I think we're moving too fast…Hope I'm wrong”

Pride, which was once extremely high at the onset of the pandemic, had begun to dip in recent weeks. However, as we can see above, this emotion is gaining strength again as we move into July. Most recently, this feeling has been in response to Dr. Tony Holohan stepping back from his role as CMO. Social media platforms were busy with many users showing their appreciation and pride in Holohan’s efforts during the pandemic,

"If there was an Irish version of a knighthood, he should be first on the list. Best wishes Tony and family.”

As always, it’s a real mixed bag of emotions that we as a nation are feeling. While the restrictions being relaxed in the country have been a source of positive feeling, this does not come without its anxieties and fears for many. It will be interesting to see how this continues to shape our thoughts as we continue to navigate our way through this ‘new normal’. Watch this space...

A closer look at live event lovers

For many, lives are planned around their favourite team, band, or comedy show. With lots of that coming to a halt this year, for this week’s research, we speak to live event lovers. Understanding what they miss, what they’re doing to recreate the buzz and their thoughts on live events in the future. Read on for our five key findings.

1Cannot recreate the atmosphere digitally.

Fans have adapted their homes to listen to their favourite band live-stream, or people have spent time watching old highlight footage of their team on YouTube or streaming a play they had booked to see – but it’s just not the same. Many thought they’d never miss the overpriced pints and extra-long queues for the loo, but without it there, is something missing? Live from the couch just doesn’t bring the same buzz.

2Missing uniting with like-minded strangers.

The common link throughout all types of events was the feeling and the buzz of being with thousands of strangers, united around one shared interest. While yes people can all tune-in to the same event from their couches, there’s something about being there and engaging with the crowd.

3Is the world turning into a video game?

With artificial cheering, virtual conferencing and mannequins in the stands, it all feels a bit like everything is turning into a video game… and not in a good way. Lots of people mentioned events shifting to some weird episode of Black Mirror and wondering how much things will shift into alternate realities.

4Happy to do what it takes to return to venues.

In whatever shape events take place and allow spectators to attend (digital health passports, temperature checks, wearing masks, etc), this group is open to them. For live event lovers, it’s a fair trade – giving their personal information or following safety procedures allows them to feel safe at the places they love and feels like it’s the only way to move forward.

5Opportunity to reinvent brand sponsorships.

Discussing how things were, sponsorship was always a given at venues and events – with some more natural tie-ins for certain brands than others. No matter what way we get back to events, there’s an opportunity for brands to step in with new ways of sponsorship other than being wallpaper for some. People are open to new ways of experiencing things (because they have to be), so right now presents an exciting opportunity for brand sponsorship.

For the full research deck and additional thoughts on brand sponsorship – click here.

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Data Discoveries

Date: 23 June, 2020

Covid-19 Emotion Tracker: How do we really feel – A closer look at the graduating student

Lucy Remitz
Janine McBennett

By Lucy Remitz & Janine McBennett

Strategist & Data and Insight Analyst
Article Image

Welcome back to ‘How Do We Really Feel?’, where we dig deep into the nation’s feelings using our self-taught AI mood tracker along with our weekly focus groups.

Summer 2020 will be memorable for many reasons, but for one group, this was meant to be THE summer. In this week’s research deep dive, we speak to the Class of 2020, both Leaving Cert students and final year university undergrads, to understand how they feel about their future, and whether the global pandemic has shifted their outlook or altered what they want in any real way. The short answer is, it has and it hasn’t. Read on for our five key learnings.

1They are identifying themselves as ‘The Lost Generation’.

Anxiety already marked this generation. More self-aware than any generation before them, Gen Z are feeling pushed to the edge by world events, and know that experiencing this pandemic at such a significant life stage will stamp them for the rest of their lives.

2Nostalgia by proxy.

These young people have been promised a lifetime of memories this summer by movies, books and music. They have what can only be described as a nostalgia by proxy for what could’ve been instead of what was. These are important milestones, and there is a genuine sadness about the absence of these would-be memories, and the loss of a natural closure of a chapter.

3The future is ambiguous.

The long wait for Leaving Cert students to know their fate, followed by frankly a disjointed narrative, has left many feeling unsure and insecure. This is reflected in the outlook of university graduates, who feel equally ambiguous about the future and are struggling to find any reassurance in the world post-graduation.

4Wants are the same, context has changed.

In terms of aspirations for this group, if anything, this period has just reinforced their desire to progress to the next stage. Plans to attend college or take up their first job are being held on to tightly. But there is a fragility to it all now, things are on pause, but they recognise it could disappear, or at the least, be a very different experience—first year online, or first job from home.

5They were always going to change the world, now it’s been accelerated.

A different kind of workplace, flexibility, a better work-life balance—these were things that were already priorities for this generation. They now believe the pandemic means that they might become the norm for everyone.

For the full research deck, please click here.

Emotion Tracker

As we approach the end of June (hold on, what?), moving ever closer to phase 3 of returning the country to ‘normal’, we are checking in once again with the nation to get a sense of our thoughts, feelings, mood, and emotions. Are we feeling optimistic and happy? Or is morale low among us? Let’s dive in and see…

As we can see from the graph above, we have been feeling rather up and down over the past two weeks. The spikes in optimism have been a result of people feeling happy that by ‘standing together’, we have been able to significantly reduce the number of new cases in the country. The frontline staff at University Hospital Waterford were on the receiving end of a huge amount of positive praise, alongside the continued support for all frontline staff across the country, as week-on-week we are seeing users take to social to congratulate their hard work.

There has also been some positive conversation surrounding the Department of Health’s 24/7 free texting service that provides a calming chat, or immediate support to those in need, with users on social recognising the importance of maintaining good mental health during this Most recently, there was a surge in positivity and excitement online as a result of football being back,

'Never thought I’d be this happy to see football Twitter back again, some sort of normality back anyways.'

We saw some sadness intermittently over the past 2 weeks—some of this was as a result of Leaving Cert students feeling sad that they were saying goodbye to their school days and their teachers, via a camera

'My teachers got me here crying with their goodbye messages. I did not expect to say goodbye to the people who have probably changed my life through Microsoft Teams #LeavingCert2020 #LeavingCert #coronavirus #LC2020.'

Some of these teenagers are also feeling annoyed and frustrated that while pubs are opening at the end of the month, they feel the same level of concern and dedication to the cause was not applied to the Leaving Cert,

'So if they could do all this for the pubs why couldn't the same effort be put in for Leaving Cert students?'

Other feelings of frustration being felt by people across social are mainly centred around reluctance from users to accept this new reality we are living through. Some people believe that the measures that are in place are ‘sucking the fun out of everything’, while others insist that even if the virus does start to spread quickly again, that ‘we can’t keep locking down.’ Some others are feeling as if progress is too slow with scientific research, questioning ‘are we living in the dark ages?’This feeling of impatience as we crave ‘normality’ again has been apparent as the weeks have gone by, and it is still very much a common theme.

In our rush to return to normal however, some are also feeling like our priorities are lying in the wrong place —

'Pubs, pubs, pubs. One might forget there is urgent medical care not happening in this country, or a sane plan to bring back children to school, and passports not to be got, but let’s talk about 90 minutes for a GAA game in a pub.'

Others are feeling like we are forgetting that Coronavirus is still with us, and want to remind others on social that we still need to be extremely cautious –

'No social distancing on Luas redline whatsoever. You’d think the Coronavirus has been cured, it has not!'

Overall, it’s worth mentioning that we’re noticing a significant reduction in the volume of people talking about Coronavirus online, whether in isolation as a topic, and even part of wider conversations. As we can see from the below graph, conversation around the virus has been on a steady decline, as conversations around the BLM movement for example have been more prominent in recent weeks.

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Data Discoveries

Date: 9 June, 2020

Covid-19 Emotion Tracker: How do we really feel – Urban Vs Rural

Lucy Remitz
Janine McBennett

By Lucy Remitz & Janine McBennett

Strategist & Data and Insight Analyst
Article Image

Welcome back to ‘How Do We Really Feel?’, where we dig deep into the nation’s feelings using our self-taught AI mood tracker along with our weekly focus groups.

Moving into Phase 2 of the country’s return to a sense of normality, we’re back this week with a view on how we are feeling as a nation through the ups and the downs and the peaks and the troughs of life as we currently know it. As always, we have been monitoring emotion through our Mood Tracker, as well as talking directly to two different cohorts of people in Ireland to really get under the skin of the tensions that Covid-19 has brought about. So without further ado, let’s dive right in...

Audience understanding: Urban versus Rural

This week we’ve taken a look at two groups who are often considered to be very different. In many ways they are at odds with each other and have fundamentally contrasting lifestyles but strangely enough, given our current situation, there are a lot of similarities. We spoke separately to those considered urban living (in cities like Dublin, Galway, Cork and Limerick) and those classified to be more rural living (in counties like Mayo, Offaly, Wicklow and Clare). We also asked which would be their preference right now and (spoiler alert!) people feel like those living rurally right now are best placed for our situation.

So for this week as we have two separate audiences, we’ll first look at four of the differences between the two groups in this current situation. We’ll then highlight a few key similarities. Finally, we’ll have some closing thoughts on consistent themes moving into our "new normal" (we really have to come up with a better term for this!).


1Cities can feel a palpable shift of what once was.

For those living in cities - it has become a drastically different world. Busy hotspots, such as Temple Bar, have become empty, with one person explaining, "it’s just a ghost town now." For another, there is a palpable feeling that something major has changed and looking out from their sixth floor window, they see a constant reminder of what’s shifted.

Much about why people live in cities has been removed for the time being. The energy, the people, the culture, the food... it’s all just been put on pause. Lots of those we talked with have discussed moving since if this is our “new normal” until who knows when, the great parts about city living potentially won’t be accessible for some time.

This was noticeably different in our conversations with the rural community - with one person even saying "life just hasn’t really changed." The term 'dystopian' came up many times talking to the urban participants, whereas it didn’t really come up at all with the rural group. However, with things like the GAA being put on hold, interactions across all groups was changed.

2Living spaces are incredibly different.

For these two audiences, living situations were incredibly different in relation to their own personal space. Most living in the city have a smaller physical situation, but also that means generally less people in an apartment. Those we spoke with living more rural often had more people in their places, with family members cocooning with them. There are clear pros and cons for both of these situations, but it was like they were living two different lives right now.

Generally speaking those living rurally felt bad for those living in cities and overall those living in the city wished at this point they were more rural. One of our participants living in Offaly explained, "People must just feel trapped living in a city. There’s such a sense of freedom where I live, big wide open space... it would really affect my mental health not being able to do some of the normal things."

3People proximity means alternative realities.

"I love living in the countryside, I don’t have to deal with any people at all. It’s a wave to the neighbours and that’s really it.”

Whereas those living in cities are constantly avoiding people wherever they can. "Obeying the rules" was much more of a discussion in cities, as it’s much easier to not obey the rules. Even walking in the city can be difficult given narrow paths and as one person explains,

"I’m just frustrated with groups of younger and older people outside, feels selfish and makes me wonder why I’m still following guidelines if they’re not."

It wasn’t as much of an issue for those living rurally, however different problems presented themselves - with some feeling more pressure to have interaction with family living close by, because that would be very difficult to enforce. And for those living truly rurally, loneliness was definitely more of a concern if there wasn’t a bigger family unit in their household.

4There is a difference across individuals about “blame.”

Overall it depended on the person and the mindset, but there wasn’t an us versus them mentality in relation to these two groups of people. There was a couple from the rural living category, who wondered (in hindsight) if this could have been stopped earlier: "Definitely feel like it was coming across to us from the likes of Dublin, perhaps if they had done those restrictions earlier we wouldn’t be in our current situation."

However most understood that coronavirus could have been anywhere and that peoples’ behaviours could mean continuing the spread anywhere, like one person explaining how a meat factory in Mayo lead to an infection across so much of the town. When asking those living in urban places, they did think that there was a perception that people in cities were the ones to blame and wondered if this could lead to frustration and anger in the future, once more of this situation pans out. There also was a sense of difference in terms of enforcement with someone rurally explaining, "you don’t feel like you’re being monitored as much in the country."


1What even are days now?

This is something that’s continuously coming up in groups and will likely continue until more and more places opens up again. For people no matter where they are, it seems like everything is converging into one. Homes have been converted to being everything - workspaces, gyms, restaurants, theatres and so much of it centres around a screen.

Even just separating what days are was difficult for all of these groups. "The work week rolls on, never really sure what day it is, it’s hard to switch off and then weekends are gone so quickly - it’s all rolling into one. These months have crept by but also flew by at the same time."

2The virus doesn’t really discriminate and not many places are "safe."

There was only a small sense of "blame" that people in cities brought the virus across to other pockets of the country, with a few people bringing up initial travel in the beginning stages of this situation. But overall, the clear understanding was that everywhere feels very much like a potential place to "get it".

This meant some concern across all groups around Irish travel. People thought perhaps islands would be a great place to take a staycation once it’s allowed, but there’s concern if outsiders would even be let in right now. Even though there are just generally more people living in a city and more instances in some ways of contact, the resounding feeling was that everywhere could be a potential place to contract, which in some ways was an equalizer for people.

3Nature, in any form, is a welcome place for all.

The type of nature between these two groups was quite different (fields versus a square of green), but the concept was resoundingly required. Moments in nature was such a time of relief for people and allowed them to forget about the ongoing crisis - not even just with this pandemic but with all of the other issues brought about by 2020.

The sense of gratitude for this weather and moments outside was wonderful. One participant explained,

"I live in an apartment. It would have been so nice to have a garden through all of this to sit outside like in the country. But at the very least I have a local park near me which is one of the only places I feel like I can properly relax."

For some in cities parks could be a source of anxiety due to the sheer number of people, but overall nature provides a much-needed escape, especially for those living in the middle of apartment blocks.

Final thoughts moving into the next stage

This week sees us entering the next phase of the government’s plan and will mean slight shifts closer to a life that we once knew. After over two months of research talking to audiences, there have been continuous themes coming up in discussion and these came to the fore at the end of our discussions.

Carrying on the way we are for the time being.

Each phase has brought some changes for people - some are more affected than others. And some are very concerned that most people have gotten very complacent and are starting to very much ignore the guidelines. But then even as those guidelines shift, based on where you are it can be a huge difference or miniscule. For instance, distance restrictions are more relevant for those in cities versus those living rurally.

And right now, big plans haven’t been made yet. People are waiting to see if things shift and with the possibility of phases being pushed back (or brought forward) people are a little reluctant to book things like domestic holidays. They’re also wondering about when places like pubs re-open - what will they even look like and how do we navigate this new world?

But realities of our situation are settling in and demand for adapted life is here.

As it’s now been nearly three months of living life in lockdown, the truth is settling in that this isn’t going away and isn’t just temporary. For some, they essentially just want to "put things on hold" until we resume - but for others they are shifting their current lives to adapt to living in the now.

There are obvious physical things like people buying desks to cram into their one-bed apartments (like me, as I write now not from my kitchen table for the first time) but also adapting to spending time really differently and redetermining how their time is spent. Brands that are recognising this are being called out - with local food places consistently being brought up as innovating to meet the needs of people now. Rather than reflecting back how people are feeling, bringing new solutions to life now or ways out of the monotony are very welcomed.

Desire to bring lessons we’ve learnt into our next phases.

Nearly every week in Inside Out we’ve looked at different positive lessons we’ve all taken away and what some of the changes for the better are as a result of this situation. This is something that continues to be a theme moving forward, that people don’t want to shift back entirely to what once was.

It will be hard to know what will actually stick, what behaviours people will want to be changed - but either way this has been a time of forced reflection and there is a desire from most people to take into the future some of what we’ve learned now. Our final word from one of the conversations is the perfect close for this week’s report - "I hope we don’t fuck about and live like we were before."

Emotion Tracker

As we roll into Phase 2 of the government’s plan to return the country to a sense of "normality" over the coming weeks and months, we’ve been keeping an eye on shifts in feelings and mood, and the ‘why’ behind these different emotions that we are feeling as a nation.

Here below, we can see the most up-to-date mood tracker at the time of pulling this report:

Encouragingly, we notice that there has been some significant spikes in positive feelings of optimism. As a nation we were feeling particularly positive on May 25th when news was announced that there were no new confirmed coronavirus deaths in the country that day. Optimism also rose the day it was announced that the European Commission has proposed a major Covid-19 recovery plan. People are optimistic about being able to see a light at the end of the tunnel,"this is fantastic, it’s about time we get back to some sort of normality now!”, with some believing that "dragging this into August is absolute insanity."

On the flip side of this, many others are eager to note that we have not reached the "finish line" of Covid-19, and that people should not be ignoring all measures, which people are angrily pointing out is "disrespectful to our front line heroes." As such, there is a real division in how we are feeling - some of us happy to get back to normal as quickly as possible, while others are feeling we cannot become complacent during these early days of the restoration of the country.

As we continue to navigate our way through this new world, we are also seeing many posts becoming more light-hearted and humorous in nature - people are in disbelief that life is actually for real now: "plot sorted, just have to name it now...", "2020 is a series finale, has to be." With each new trial and tribulation thrown our way, as serious as we realise they are, social media is giving us a light sense of reprieve.

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Data Discoveries

Date: 26 May, 2020

Covid-19 Emotion Tracker. How do we really feel – The grounded global citizen.

Lucy Remitz
Janine McBennett

By Lucy Remitz & Janine McBennett

Strategist & Data and Insight Analyst
Article Image

Welcome back to ‘How Do We Really Feel?’, where we dig deep into the nation’s feelings using our self-taught AI mood tracker along with our weekly focus groups.

Now that the country is on its way to (slowly and steadily) regaining a sense of normality, we’ve been continuing to sense-check the mood of the nation online on our very own ‘Mood Tracker’ as we move through this phase. As always, we see peaks and troughs of both positive and negative sentiment by the day, and even by the hour, so let’s take a deeper dive into it...

Understandably, we saw a huge rise in feelings of positivity and optimism from 9am on May 18th, the day we entered phase 1 of returning the country back to normal. Interestingly, morale had been quite low leading up to this day, and if we notice on the graph, it dips once again in the days that follow this. On this day, users took to social to express their positive feelings about entering the first phase of returning to normal, highlighting the "big day"  for local Irish gardening and hardware businesses. There was also positive conversation around “reasons to be optimistic about a coronavirus vaccine”. Many posts thanking Simon Harris and the government for their work circulated, and there were special shout outs for the GAA and the positive impact its members are having in supporting frontline workers. Overall, the mood this day was largely ‘feel good’.

However, we have noticed since that the mood of the nation has taken a dip, as the high we felt entering phase 1 has slowly faded to the realisation that we are still a long way away from regaining the lives we are yearning for. We are feeling frustrated with the “monotony” of the routine we have been living for the past few weeks.

Some are also feeling frustration at the term “new normal” - have we become too accustomed to hearing this term being thrown about, without really questioning it and what repercussions it might have?

There is also the worry that it is misleading as a phrase, implying that life before was “normal”, as viewed with rose-tinted glasses:

This concept of Covid 19 shining a light on the ‘inequality’ of the country has been a topic of discussion overall over the past two weeks amongst many users, ultimately driving this negative sentiment and mood we are seeing. We are realising the longer this pandemic goes on, that it is potentially heightening the inequalities that exist within the country.

A closer look at the grounded global citizens

This week we’re talking to a group of people who have been truly grounded as a result of this pandemic. While we are all essentially “stuck here,” some are more affected than others, either relying on a majority of work abroad, having all of their family in a different country or those who travel for extended periods of time.

Because of these broad ‘global citizen’ parameters, we were allowed to hear from all sorts of different people around Ireland. We spoke to a wide range of people, like musicians or actors generally used to working abroad (one of whom had just had a US & Australia tour cancelled), business executives who spend around a week each month in London, non-Irish people who have lived here for more than a few years and those who are used to spending the majority of their time travelling around the world.

We wanted to speak to this group to help represent a somewhat outsider view and have a good discussion of what lessons we might want to take into the future. For this week’s report, we first detail some of the common themes for this audience and then shift to some guiding questions they (and probably lots of us) are asking themselves while we shift into this “new normal.”

Novelty is over, plain and simple

It’s been well over two months now (who can keep count?) and speaking to new groups of people weekly, the point is often reinforced: the newness is over. People are simply tired of it all, with this group in particular being “over it”.

For those used to living lives across countries – they find this especially hard. One of the business execs we spoke to is the only one of her team in Dublin, with all of her co-workers in London. She said it’s the longest she’s been without going over and even though everyone is virtual, it feels like she’s left out or missing what’s happening over there. They are wondering what’s next and how we proceed forward as right now we’re completely stuck – “Zoom and teams and the like just aren’t the same as human contact”.

It’s a total feeling of stagnation, the “temporariness” of it all is fading. For this group, who are used to meeting new people often and seeing new places, being stuck in a small radius is a big blow to normality. At the end of our discussion guide, people stayed on the line and talked about how nice it was to talk to someone new, and how they were “itching to get back to it”. Simply said: “I want to be served a drink on a coaster!”

Palpable desperation to get out of where they are

“When they closed the airports I automatically felt claustrophobic. I had to make a decision to stay here rather than go home to Spain, it was so difficult and I still wonder if I made the right call.”

Especially for those not from Ireland, there is a keen sense of dread or fear that would never have existed there before. There was generally always a choice to being somewhere and once that’s removed or you’re unable to go to your real home, it’s like a tightening at the throat. Immediately there was a collective sense of stress, a feeling of being stuck and an intense worry around when they would work or travel to see family again.

There was a look into people’s desperation with one example:

“My friend bought a flight ticket leaving from Cork, she didn’t plan on using it at all, but essentially had a pass if she was stopped then she could have an excuse. This was so that she could leave her immediate area as she felt just so stuck. She has eight housemates as well (two in each room) so needed to escape.”

Pressure to pen the ‘Great American Novel’ yet lack of motivation

As the reality that this situation isn’t going away any time soon, it feels almost like talking to a group of people in the middle of January or early February. The ambitions and aspirations that were present have definitely started to weather away.

Not even just having extra time without a commute, there’s now a lot of extra time that would have been filled with travel time. Like many other groups we’ve spoken to, this one also feels that “there’s such a pressure to be productive internally right now.” However, it’s feeling harder than ever to have motivation, as what was originally going to be a potential few weeks has extended much further beyond a couple of months and is now a question of early 2021.

Planned down to the millisecond before

While this sentiment isn’t necessarily exclusively for this audience, with this particular group constant travelling nearly every weekend (or week in some cases) now being gone, there’s a realisation that, before now, essentially every weekend and evening was planned. It was always a focus on what is next rather than what was presently in front of them and living in the moment.

“For instance, I don’t really have anything on next weekend, something that would never happen before, which is both exciting and terrifying”.

There is a collective understanding that there is some joy in not having plans, not having every weekend taken up by travel (sometimes) and potential learnings moving forward beyond this limbo. Again, it’s difficult to know whether that’s a temporary measure and novelty feelings, when after a summer (or a year, really) without travel if that will still be the case.

Optimistic, but the danger of having a plan in place

These were the first conversations we had after the government’s phased plan was announced, which meant, in some ways, there was less uncertainty in the following few months as having dates attributed to movement and when things could open again did provide some comfort for people.

This did lead to a sense of optimism, “especially because no other countries are really publishing actual dates. Yes, they might change but I like that we can have milestones at least,” with feeling like there was an end of some kind there was reassurance for this group.

But there’s a huge worry that having this plan and dates will make people break the rules even more. It seemed to be equally parts comforting and unnerving, with a legitimate concern that people will go mad when each stage is progressed. We’ve already seen this with hours of queues at home and gardening stores re-opening last week.

“My friend emailed a link of a musical happening in December that I would normally go to in a heartbeat. But now I’m not even sure if in December it will feel safe enough?”.

Evaluating what’s worth the risk and what’s at the other end of the journey

As things open up more, this audience of course realises that the virus hasn’t simply gone away and that other countries aren’t taking things as seriously as Ireland, which presents unique problems when traveling. It’s not going back to their normal life of travel.

One person’s family in India has a family wedding set to happen at the end of this summer (with a planned attendance of over a thousand people) with talk of it being postponed to sometime early next year. They’re not sure if they would travel back, weighing up that it might not be worth the risk. It feels at this stage if you’re traveling far, it almost requires you to stay put there as there will likely be self-isolation required on both sides. Most aren’t really entertaining the thought of international travel, unless they absolutely have to.

Beyond travel – the idea of any type of gathering elicits a sense of stress:

Shifting towards a new future and defining what we think this could be

This extra time and extra headspace for some has us questioning so much in our lives. There’s essentially a BC (before Corona) and AD (after disease) that has us wondering what we actually want to take forward into the “new normal.”

One participant even joked that it’s like the Marie Kondo effect for all of our lives – what brings us joy, what’s worthwhile and what is worth tossing? The result meant lots of questions that I think we’re all asking ourselves and re-evaluating what happens when the restrictions loosen and we’re getting back to some level of “normality.”

There is a collective understanding that there is some joy in not having plans, not having every weekend taken up by travel (sometimes) and potential learnings moving forward beyond this limbo. Again, it’s difficult to know whether that’s a temporary measure and novelty feelings, when after a summer (or a year, really) without travel if that will still be the case.

1Work: How can companies say no in the future to working from home?

“My friend emailed a link of a musical happening in December that I would normally go to in a heartbeat. But now I’m not even sure if in December it will feel safe enough?”.

The typical office environment will have to change and allow for more flexible approaches across the board.

2Friendships: How can we prioritise relationships without all of the normal excuses?

This time has shown more Zoom calls than ever. For some, especially those with family and friends far afield, the question is if this will continue or if this will shift back to the normal levels of busyness.

3Environment: How can we turn a blind eye to some of the positive effects of our inaction?

It was a topic that was on many people’s minds before the pandemic, especially for this group who feel some guilt for their global citizen lifestyle. Even with a worldwide halt in contributors like travel, we have still barely met the targets set for us this year.

4Wider social issues: How can we address the burning issues that won’t simply go away after this situation?

For example, with the leaving cert and broadband access – there are disadvantages threaded throughout our society that have been highlighted even more that now need to be addressed.

5Community: How can we maintain this lovely, local community feeling?

We all hear the wonderful stories of neighbours helping neighbours, when before this lots of people were essentially strangers. This is a sensibility still maintained in country parts, but what about urban centres? Will we still know our neighbours in two years time?

6Gratitude & appreciation: Ultimately, how can we continue the kindness we’re showing to others and thank those doing important (yet sometimes unrecognised) work?

Fast forward a few years, even a few months, and there’s speculation that all this niceness will be gone. There’s been a palpable ‘we’re in this together’ vibe and a sense of group power. How can we keep this, maintain it and bring it to the future? Can we keep this, channel it and bring more positives into whatever this new world is?

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Data Discoveries

Date: 12 May, 2020

Covid-19 Emotion Tracking: How do we really feel? An inside look at parents with young children working from home

Lucy Remitz
Janine McBennett

By Lucy Remitz & Janine McBennett

Strategist & Data and Insight Analyst

Welcome back to ‘How Do We Really Feel?’, where we dig deep into the nation’s feelings using our self-taught AI mood tracker along with our weekly focus groups. This week, we spoke to parents heroically juggling working from home and looking after their little ones. What we’ve uncovered tells us a lot about how we’re collectively experiencing so many feelings at once – both positive and negative.

First, let’s take a look at the mood of the nation over the past few days as we begin the initial stages of reopening the country.

For the most part, optimism continues to dominate. Many conversations have been focused on positive actions that people and organisations are taking. The national mentality of ‘being in it together’ is keeping us upbeat. Week after week, users are continuing to call out individuals, charities and organisations who are giving support during this difficult time. For example, we saw a huge rise in optimism on the morning of 9th May, largely as a result of the ‘Darkness Into Light’ sunrise appeal, which utilised the digital sphere to raise funds for Pieta House. Other positive mentions focused on the Navajo and Hopi Families Covid-19 relief fund, with many users encouraging others to give back and donate.

As we can see, there are spikes in positivity almost every day over the past week. A common trend is to offer encouragement on social media, reminding others (and ourselves) that “it’s okay to feel” and that “with the finish line in sight, we can put all our energy into the final dash. We can do this.”

While positivity mostly prevails, negative feelings of annoyance and frustration continue to be present. Some believe “rip off Ireland” has begun, with a handful of people taking to social to shame brands and companies they feel are “taking advantage” of the situation by hiking up prices. This anger is also felt over rent increases. In particular, on 7th May when news broke that Bewley’s cafe was closing because they couldn’t sustain the high rent price. Much of the online conversation was centred around the sadness of losing an iconic part of Irish culture as a result of “landlord greed”.

What’s really interesting here is that we’re feeling like this type of behaviour is a “betrayal” of residents and locals alike at a time when there is so much difficulty. We want to feel like we’re all making an effort to support each other. Similarly, we saw this feeling of betrayal rise again on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, when pictures arose online of people ignoring social distancing in the sunshine. Users expressed annoyance that they themselves are taking the correct measures, while others are blatantly ignoring it, harming the process of flattening the curve. We feel that those who are ignoring the situation “need a wake-up call”.

An inside look at parents with young children working from home

In this week’s report we have findings from a group of multitasking superheroes – parents who are working from home. Almost two months ago, on 13th March, schools and most childcare centres closed, turning parents into sole educators and always-on child minders overnight. While the government’s roadmap for reopening gives parents an end in sight, there are still several weeks of major multitasking to come.

We spoke to many different types of parents with younger children: Single mums and dads, a father whose wife just had their second child, a mum to twin five-year-old boys, and another parent home with their family of eight, including their cocooning grandmother. With our theme of resilience this week, who better to speak with than this group? Read on to see six of the key themes we gleaned from them, how we closed out our conversations, and how this group sees the future.

1. This is not the new normal

A phrase we’ve heard more and more over the past two months is “our new normal”. This is how we kicked off our discussion, with many parents expressing that they very much hope this is not our new normal. In fact, they hated the phrase.

Several people were already occasionally working from home pre-Covid. The difference was they didn’t have everyone else in the house with them. No one in the group was really set up for the type of working environment created by the pandemic. Many expressed sentiments like: “My son is on top of me constantly”. The idea that this is “how it could be for a while” was not sitting well at all.

2. An insane level of multitasking

Working, educating kids, socialising, trying to take a break – all simultaneously from home – has become a mammoth multitasking feat for our parents. One person described her day as: “I’m working the same amount, if not more. But then I start something and then constantly get interrupted throughout it all which is the real issue. I feel like I can never get anything done.”

While being pulled in every direction, there was a strong level of guilt coming from the parents. Not just the ‘mum guilt’ we hear about, but a different level of guilt now. There’s a feeling that our work, parental and personal selves are all suffering. One mum explained: “It’s really frustrating trying to keep the kids entertained and productive”. Just like when we spoke to millennials, the pressure of productivity is there, but for parents, it’s not just for themselves but for their kids too.

This can lead to new habits and shifts in behaviour for parents that are completely understandable, but concerning for them moving forward. One dad explained what he sees happening:

The kids (are) being more demanding entirely. I find I’m saying yes more often than I would have to things like snacks or TV. It’s like I have to appease them so I can get something done. To be completely honest I’m pretty worried about how much this can continue and how confusing it’ll be once it’s yes one minute and then no the next. It’s confusing for them.

3. Are they losing a year of childhood?

This sentiment was debated for a big part of our discussion. A lot of their concern was as expected. How will this affect their children not just now but also in the long run? It truly depended on their children’s age in terms of progression and social interaction. Everyone agreed that it’s amazing to get more time with their children, especially those with the youngest, but there was debate about what this could mean.

Most of the parents with kids over five felt like their kids were going to be missing out on a whole summer. Some parents were considering not sending their kids back to school, even if things reopen in September, erring on the side of caution in light of new information showing that children could be more affected than previously thought.

From an adult’s perspective, the current situation can be recognised as temporary – just a small fraction of our lives. For kids, however, it’s a much bigger portion their lives. There was some grief from parents about how their kids were processing this, with one parent explaining how heartbroken they felt on their son’s seventh birthday: “Virtually, the basics for them are just gone and it makes it hard to watch.”

4. Mixed support from employers and co-workers

The group’s feelings about the support of their employers and co-workers was incredibly mixed. Some companies seemed to have made a seamless transition, with some already having work from home set-ups. But for others, it was a total ‘tossed-in-the-deep-end’ situation.

Overall, people felt companies have responded well, mainly because they didn’t have any other choice. The places offering more work-hour flexibility shined through and those offering clear strategies for getting back into the office seemed to have it together. There was considerable worry about managing childcare upon a return to work, with many companies not addressing how they might support this.

Co-workers were a different story. Several parents felt like co-workers were expecting response times as if they were back in the office, but with kids at home it felt impossible. There was a sense that many co-workers didn’t understand their realities at home.

Some companies were seen to be saying the ‘right things’ at the top, but failing to action them at the employee level.

5. Even with a five-phase plan, there’s still a cloud of uncertainty

Since we spoke to this group after the government phases were announced, we wondered if their feelings of uncertainty would be decreased. Our tracker has shown a level of fear, anger and frustration – so it’s interesting to see this being reflected in our groups.

They felt all of the emotions are going hand-in-hand. One person summed up the unknown by saying: “There’s a huge uncertainty around what it means for basically every industry. Also, just because job loss and pay cuts haven’t happened yet for me, doesn’t mean that they’re not coming.”

This sentiment was widely echoed, with people saying: “Don’t see the half of it yet. I’m definitely more afraid to spend – feel like I need to save not just for a rainy day but for a rainy few months. It’s scary.”

6. Bright spots on the horizon alongside all the worry

With a constant level of uncertainty bubbling below – there were still bright spots that rose up in our conversations. Good-hearted people are shining through and the prospect of taking a break around Ireland in late summer is helping to keep spirits up. “We need to make the most of the year we have left”, said one mum. In addition to this, there’s hope that the positive effects of more flexible working will lead to positive change for parents.

Beyond personal and work life, there’s also a positive outlook on us as a society. One dad explained this by stating: “I think people will be healthier as a result of all of this: home cooked meals, exercising, checking in, politeness overall and minding each other better.

After the February election, it seemed that the country was more divided than ever. But given everything we’ve been through, the feeling is that we’ve come together (as cliché as that sounds now). This is helping us become more unified as a country. How long this will last is definitely unclear – but it gives us positive momentum moving forward.

What’s next? We’ll come back from the fallout together.

That unifying feeling reminded people in the group of the many storms Irish people have weathered and emerged stronger from. While our conversations had many ups and downs (just like our feelings), our chats arrived in a positive place.

To capture this sentiment, we had participants write down what they believed resilience meant to us as Irish people. Below are some of the responses that help paint an optimistic (yet cautious) picture of us as a country, and what could happen next:

We all remember the last recession – we pulled up our socks and got through it. It wasn’t great (we all remember how it felt) but look at where we were. We can do that again.

Irish people are just resilient as a people. That’s one of the things basically in our DNA isn’t it?

How we’ve handled this, and I hate to say it, our government, because normally I’m not a fan, but it’s a testament to us. Compared to everyone else, we’re doing well and I’m confident as a nation that we can do this.

I think we have to be optimistic about what’s to come – having a plan and stages is really helping. Clear and concise direction with dates really helps, it’s something to look forward to and if it’s all going to plan, yes we will be resilient as ever.

I hope that we’ll be able to bounce back. Feels like we have to shoulder a lot of weights and this will be another one. We have no idea what the fall out of this will be, but again I’m hoping that we’ll come back fighting.

Sure listen, the Irish have reacted well to things. We’ll be looking alright for the future.


Data Discoveries

Date: 6 May, 2020

Covid-19 Emotion Tracking: How do we really feel? A closer look at the unemployed as a result of Covid-19

Lucy Remitz
Janine McBennett

By Lucy Remitz & Janine McBennett

Strategist & Data and Insight Analyst

This week we wanted to speak to a group that hasn’t been well represented yet, but are increasing in size as the pandemic goes on. Figures from the CSO in March report an employment rate of 16.5%, which will continue to grow. We’ve spoken with a group of individuals who have all lost their jobs to understand more about how they’re feeling nearly eight weeks since the restrictions were put in place.

These conversations were very illuminating and their message was clear – they feel misunderstood and they feel they’ve lost their voice.

We have five takeaways from these conversations that will help understand this audience better. Then, we discuss what brands they feel are using their voices well.


The current situation is not in any way normal – especially not for this group. Most of the people we spoke with have had their lives flipped entirely. While there were bright spots in the conversations, it wasn’t all roses. It was clear they felt a huge lack of control over the situation.

One thing that gave them solace was the feeling that everyone is in this together. One participant explained that there’s a “collective sense of disappointment in the situation”, and in some ways it was comforting to know that a lot of people around the globe are in the same boat.


We spoke to people in a variety of different industries – admin, IT, hairdressing, travel, tourism and more. Every job was affected differently, but what was common was that everyone was unsure of their future. One person described it as “an insane pressure right now to find a job… and not in my industry, because my industry is not running”.

While some believe this is temporary and are “just waiting for the call from their boss”, others are more worried and considering redundancy so they can look for a job in a new industry.

The few people we spoke in tourism, for instance, felt that they had not been represented at all. They weren’t afraid that travel won’t come back, they were worried about how long they can wait for it to.

“I was on social media a lot for work, so it’s sad now because my Instagram is really geared to my work [travel and tourism]. For me, it feels really toxic to be on there, but of course I am. I don’t want to think about the job I loved, now I don’t have, and don’t know if I’ll go back to eventually.”


Many people we spoke with felt that in the beginning they had a considerable level of sympathy from their friends, but that it definitely stopped as the situation continued. There was collective agreement that the “dreaded how are you” was an easy way to derail the conversation. Most believed they were finding out who their real friends are. Many said that their friends just didn’t know what to say.

Some of this is down to their own perception of themselves, with one person describing: “I had to move home, some of my friends did too and we’re all in our mid-to-late thirties. It’s now just so embarrassing”.

Going on Zoom calls with friends and family is both a blessing and a curse, with one person describing them as “psychologically draining – especially when I really have nothing to talk about, cannot go anywhere and I’m not working, like what’s left?”

There was a pressure to be in the right mood and headspace when talking to people – as if they have to gear themselves up to put on a happy face.


Described as “some sympathy early on but now it’s waning”, the longer this continues the harder this audience is finding it. At first there was anger, now there is acceptance and a feeling that they are on perpetual hold.

One participant summed it up well: “If one more person says ‘I’d love to be in your position and watching telly’ I will punch a wall. You really wouldn’t want this spot!”. Many participants felt like their families, friends and wider society simply don’t get what they are going through. It’s not a time of relaxation, it’s a time of immense stress and worry. For some it feels like they’ve lost their entire industry.

Another person said they felt they’d lost their identity: “Just because I don’t have a job right now doesn’t mean I’m not important”.


This audience is having a difficult time finding positives in the situation, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t looking. Most of the group felt like the first two weeks were almost a holiday, but now reality is settling in.

One person explained: “I want to look back on this time and try to take something out of it”. There is a sense that this could be a time for learning, upskilling and reeducating. Some people are considering shifts towards new spaces or industries. There is also a sense of gratitude: “I feel lucky, like, I’ve got a laptop, I’ve got a roof over my head – I feel like I truly cannot complain”.

Wider societal issues came up frequently in our discussions, with the group hopeful about our collective future. There was considerable discussion on the environment, homelessness and other pressing issues society could tackle once we move past this. A sense of ‘what’s next and how do we move forward?’ was felt, with one person calling for a change in all of our behaviours: “Hopefully we’re not going to be fucking around back to what we were doing before”.


While most of our discussion was spent talking about the audience themselves, we also wanted to hear their thoughts on brand behaviour, action and tone during this time.


The brands that offered practical and immediate solutions were held in high regard. This included Ulster Bank coming in with mortgage freezes for customers. This was a pressing need for them (most didn’t want to think what would happen beyond a few months). Renters in this situation however were (and still are) really stuck.


Many brands were called out for putting their power behind the situation. Brands that were donating (especially if they didn’t have a true ‘connection’ to the situation) were being noticed as putting their money where their mouth was. It wasn’t just the size of the companies or the donation either. Local places shined through. Restaurants who were doing “Super Hero Fridays”, where frontline staff eat free on Fridays were seen by the group to be providing real support.


The group felt in limbo. It’s an unstable time for them. So, having reminders from brands that this is temporary and they’re taking the steps needed to get through this, was seen as helpful. Supermarkets were called out in this regard – clear messaging, reminders of what is going on and transparency.


Capturing a sense of warmth isn’t always a natural fit for some brands, but it is appreciated when it’s seen. For instance, An Post was discussed often. Their cards in the post, stories of carriers checking in on people who need it and the likes of keeping people connected really resonated with the group.


This audience stated that they’re watching TV now more than ever. Many were thankful that there were new ads and new content to consume. It was percieved as life going on, with one person explaining: “Really like seeing new ads, makes it feel like stuff is happening and current – you wouldn’t keep watching all the same ads every month”.

When asked about the similarity of messaging (given that a lot of current communication is talking about the same topic), they did not have an issue with that. Most appreciated the context of the situation and receiving a message about how we’ll get through this together.




A simple end frame with “stay home” might be the worst course of action with this group. While context is important, it cannot be just a sign-off message to an ad about something else entirely. They explained how this felt condescending and not at all like the brand was working to better the cause. One person called out ASOS specifically, not just because of the stories around being a virus hotspot, but because of the targeted ads she was receiving for “stay at home loungewear”. This tone was simply not sitting well with the group, especially given their income has evaporated.


How Do We Really Feel? Tracker Update.

Well, it’s been an interesting few days for us as a nation – we enjoyed another (sunny!) bank holiday weekend from within our 2km radiuses, and we also got much needed updates on the lock down situation. With the government’s introduction of the phased approach to return the country to normal, we can finally see an end in sight…

So, let’s dive right in to see how this has affected our thoughts, emotions, moods, and feelings. As always, we’re using our AI listening technology to monitor how the public are really feeling day by day, hour by hour, in order to see the trigger points for these emotions as they change over the course of a week, or even a day.

For an update on our mood tracker, which reflects the sentiment of the entire population, not specifically the unemployed audience. We can see that overall feelings of optimism remain high as we move into May. It’s interesting, though, when we notice the pattern of optimism and fear on the day the phased approach was announced by Leo:

We can see that on 1st May, during the hours leading up to Leo’s speech, the mood was largely optimistic. Strikingly though, at 6pm, just before the speech was made, there was a sharp rise in feelings of fear. Users took to social to proclaim their anxiety: “Worried about Leo’s speech today, hope he just gets straight to the point”.

However, we see that this feeling of fear dropped somewhat after the speech, taken over by feelings of optimism once again. In the hours directly following the announcement, we were mostly feeling that the planned approach gives us “a light at the end of the tunnel”, with this positive outlook leading us to believe that “we can beat this!” and “Ireland is rising to the challenge”.

Interestingly though, the following day we saw a rise in feelings of anger and frustration:

This spike in negativity is largely centred on feelings of dismay about those in direct provision centres who are most vulnerable to the virus and lacking a voice. There is also some anger online about “people whinging about lockdown”, when we haven’t had it as strict as other countries, like Spain or France. In relation to this, there are some negative feelings about the possibility of a “second wave” if we don’t maintain social distancing.

Overall, feelings towards Leo and the government are much less steady than in previous weeks:

When we analyse how people are talking about Leo and the government, we can see that it’s a mixed bag of positivity and negativity. Some feel that they are “doing their best”, while others are sharing a similar opinion to the below:

Some even believe that “people will question if the government is actually an essential service” once this is all over…

As each phase plays out, it will be interesting to see how this may shift and alter our perceptions and attitudes for better or worse. TBC.

Data Discoveries

Date: 28 April, 2020

Covid-19 Emotion Tracking: How do we really feel?

Lucy Remitz
Janine McBennett

By Lucy Remitz & Janine McBennett

Strategist & Data and Insight Analyst

So, as another week of lockdown rolls around and another week of uncertainty looms over us, we’re back with another edition of Covid-19 Emotion Tracking: How Do We Really Feel? As always, we are continuing to use our AI technology to track our ups and downs (and the everything in between) in order to obtain a deep insight into the ever-changing attitudes of the nation as we make our way through the unknowns of this pandemic.

To get even further under the skin of how we are really feeling, each week we’ll also be delving deeper into a key audience to illuminate their specific moods and layer these insights alongside our emotion tracker. To do this, we are running online focus groups with a relevant audience around the country to bring you the most up-to-date take-outs from our discussions with them. The conversations will offer a closer look and provide some of the why behind the emotion tracking data that we see.


However, over the weekend we saw a dip in these feelings of optimism, overtaken by a sharp rise in feelings of anger and frustration, most notably on Saturday, 25th April:

These feelings were attributed largely to users taking to social to shun those who are ignoring social distancing measures. There is a real concern that people are becoming too relaxed and therefore prolonging this lockdown for everyone else. There was also very pointed anger felt at 8pm on Saturday, when it was announced that the strict garda enforcements would not be in place for those coming from Northern Ireland on day trips. People deemed this an “absolute joke” and an “insult” to the rest of us.


This week, we’ve spoken with urban working millennials to get under the skin of what they’re thinking, feeling and how they are impacted by the current situation. We’ve broken our conversations into highlights and key themes, then we finish with three things for brands to keep in mind about this audience right now.


After discussing the things lots of people are feeling right now (“Absolute cabin fever” “I’ve watched more Netflix in the past four weeks than I have the past four years” and “I hate the feeling of my hair touching my face all the time”), a theme around everyday monotony began to emerge.

While this group of millennials cited losing their normal routine, the days felt very repetitive and in some ways unexciting. “I miss the unpredictability and the options of what to do. We’re forced into it now and I know what my next month is going to be… I don’t really like that”, said a participant working from home in Galway. There’s a sense of feeling very stagnant, like things have just come to a halt, with a feeling of blandness seeping in.


As days start to blend together (as one person said, “It’s like groundhog day, with me standing in the kitchen wondering what to make for dinner”), there’s an unknown undercurrent pulsing in millennials’ minds. They say the worst part for them is just not knowing how long this will last.

There was lots of discussion around “the numbers” and what it truly means. While most agreed the Irish government have been excellent in terms of sharing information, they feel it’s hard to get an unbiased take on how the information should be interpreted. As one person in Cork explained, “It’s an information overload, but also not enough information? I don’t know what’s actually useful”.

Without an end in sight or a way to actually understand our status, for some there will be a constant tension below the surface that even an episode of Tiger King will have trouble keeping at bay.


As tracked last week, people are taking moments to thank healthcare and other workers who are putting themselves most at risk. Of those we spoke with, several had connections to the likes of nurses (housemates, partners, etc) and this truly shone through for people. Those brands that are really working to support them were also remembered.

In addition to this, there was also gratitude about the time of life we’re in. As one person stated, “15 years before now, if this happened we would have been miserable”. The people we spoke with all commute into cities for work and several mentioned how they were taking that commuting time and using it for better things, like exercise, cooking, learning new skills or reading.


When asked what the number one thing they were missing was, one person quickly jumped in to say “hugging”, with several more quickly echoing the sentiment. While in some ways, this group is connecting more than ever (for instance, messaging apps like WhatsApp are seeing an increase of 40% in usage), physical connection cannot always be replicated.

For some who are isolating alone it can be trying, but for those isolating together it can be as well. As one person described constantly living with a newer partner: “It’s only him I see every day, it’s testing”. And the constant “friend dates” are somehow at the same time wonderful, yet pressure-inducing. While there’s no true FOMO right now with no one going out, is there now FOMO if you’re not invited to that virtual pub quiz? And if you’re invited to the pub quiz, is that how you want to spend every Friday night at home?


Last week we saw optimism as a key theme emerging from the wider online space. This feeling came out naturally in our conversations with this audience and they are absolutely optimistic about our health, believing in our workers and that we can get through this.

But at the same time, there was some scepticism around it. Millennials are completely aware of their presence online and their own personal brand. They agreed people are optimistic in some ways, but there were potential conflicts. Reflecting an optimistic self online might be separate from the real self.

“Externally, yes of course I’m projecting positive but like am I actually doing that inside? I feel like I need to put up the happy ‘we can get through this face’ online with the good quote or the good stat, but then, like, that evening I cry in the shower, so…”


This audience knows a negative turn is coming for our economy. And while not all millennials were working during the last recession, they are all aware of what happens.

We were talking with millennials working from home, but many of their friends or co-workers were impacted by things like job loss. There is now a constant worry about pay cuts, layoffs or closures because they are seeing it directly impact their own businesses. We’ve seen this quantitatively as well, with the most recent KBC Consumer Sentiment Survey citing that 63% of Irish consumers thought the coronavirus would affect their household finances either substantially or somewhat. Then, even beyond their own paycheque, they are worried about how else the economic changes will affect their wider life.

For instance, several people discussed how the first thing they would do when restrictions are lifted (after visiting family), is take a lovely trip to somewhere in Ireland. However, immediately, there was pessimism around how much that would cost. While some appreciated that businesses will have to make up their losses, they believe they will be the ones to pay for it with “jacked up hotel prices” as one person explained.


This is a time where this audience has a little bit more time to reflect on wider societal issues. One that was discussed often was the environmental impact and fear that this will take eco-consciousness away from people. “We were all becoming more green aware and it’s now going to be pushed back again”.

Not that it’s the wrong thing to do, but it does show that we ultimately prioritise the main value of today. Today, that has to be health, but for this group it does make them worry about any progress that was made before. One participant summarised her feelings on the future: “We can’t go back to what normal is. It wasn’t perfect before, so this could be an opportunity to re-evaluate how we feel and change our behaviours for good”.


One of the biggest impacts for this group is actually working from home. While some had occasionally worked from home here and there, for many, this is new. It suited some well and for others they really felt the difficulties. “Truly not enjoying working from home, finding it draining and I’m actually looking forward to going into the office… something I never thought I’d say”, said one person in Dublin.

The working hours were blurring for most and they were spending all of their time at the computer (working, connecting with friends, entertainment). Most felt like it was taking much longer to do what they would normally do, so while they were all working longer, more than the 39 hours, they felt much less productive.


Every company is well and truly different in relation to working from home, but for lots of millennial employees there’s a big question of trust. One participant in Cork summed this up very well, saying: “With working from home, it feels like companies didn’t trust you before, but now they have to because there’s nothing they can do about it. For our work, this feels like a trial time – getting more people to work from home, which is fair but it’s also like that, PLUS trying to work through a pandemic, so it feels unfair because it’s not just working from home”.

For many, this felt like an inevitable step towards the trend of remote working, working from home or other places (to rent flexible shared office space in Dublin can cost up to €1,000 per month alone). First it was offices, then it was cubicles, then it was an open plan office, then shared workspaces, next, is it completely home offices? As one person explained, “it’s the shift to a new (that’s not actually new) way of working that should have happened years ago”.


While they are optimistic about their health status, the fear of what’s coming is ever present. This very much registered in the data tracker and is an underlying theme across this audience. For some, they might not be necessarily worried or scared in relation to the virus, but there’s just no end in sight at all and they are not exactly optimistic about what this means for the economy.

In addition to this, as we saw in the surge of anger and frustration at people not complying, everyone agreed that once restrictions are lifted, they expect the country to go mad. Friends have already planned the first big night out: “Once you ease it up even an inch, they’ll take a mile”.

Three things to keep in mind about this audience

1. WFH… in a pandemic 

This isn’t a business as usual situation. Before all this, millennials were stressed out with the weight of the world. But now, people are grappling with even stronger levels of anxiety, health issues most likely within family connections, and trying to weather this storm. The pressure to be productive amidst all of this is heavy on their shoulders.

2. Craving something new

Much of their day is the same right now, with the days blending into one. Like always with millennials, any new experience (cocktail making classes at home, a new way to workout, etc) will be welcomed.

3. Optimistic but worried

 While there is a sense of optimism in relation to our health, the constant worry about how this will affect them, their jobs and our economy is very present.

Data Discoveries

Date: 21 April, 2020

Covid-19 Emotion Tracking: How do we really feel?

Janine McBennett
Lucy Remitz

By Janine McBennett & Lucy Remitz

Data and Insight Analyst & Strategist

“Covid-19”, “Coronavirus”, “the C-Word”…it’s really all any of us can talk and think about for the foreseeable future and never has there been a hotter topic of discussion (for our Zoom calls). But while we know that all of us are in this together, going through the motions, balancing working from home with minding kids, and squeezing in our home workouts around baking banana bread, how do we really FEEL throughout all of this, and what are we thinking? 

Following on from the first edition of our feature on ‘Measuring the Mood of the Nation’, our Data and Insights team has been continuing to monitor the conversations of the nation using our self-trained AI technology on our listening platform, in order to track shifts in mood and decipher triggers for certain feelings and emotions, allowing us to really deep dive into the national psyche.

Knowing how we are currently feeling during this pandemic is invaluable. But in order to really get under the skin of this ongoing shift in mood, we have begun layering these current changes in emotions with an overall sense of how the nation has been feeling pre and during Covid-19 – not just in relation to the pandemic, but in general, everyday conversations. This allows us to really get a sense of the effect that this pandemic has on our mood and emotions. 

3 Key Takeouts into how we are currently feeling:

In our ongoing tracking of the nation’s emotions, we have unearthed three key insights into how we are currently feeling as a nation as the pandemic progresses:

  • We are feeling a lack of control and power, which is ultimately driving us to feel frustrated at the situation. This lack of control and power is being felt as a result of not knowing when this crisis will end, not being able to help those closest to us who may be vulnerable or sick, and the feeling of having to entirely rely on the media and our government for information which we feel is not entirely truthful.
  • We are continuing to feel proud and optimistic, and we are using social media to put our best positive foot forward. Comparing digital conversations pre and during the pandemic, online conversations are currently at their most optimistic over the year-long period. We are taking to digital platforms to unite as a nation, show gratitude, and remind each other that we are “all in this together”.
  • We remain fearful of the effects of Covid-19 on society, however, the pandemic is meaning that we are worrying less about the trivial things in life, and learning to appreciate “the small wins”.

How are we currently feeling as a nation amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic? (March – April daily tracker)


Pride and Optimism continue to be the strongest emotions that we are feeling as a nation as we make our way through another few weeks of strict national lockdown. While the situation is remaining stagnant, we are making efforts to appreciate positive work that has been carried out by people, charities, and brands that are coming together to make a positive impact, while also taking the time to relish the small things that bring us pleasure. We are seeing more people connecting with the arts – be it through song writing, poetry, journaling, and baking, and people taking the time to step back and appreciate nature, posting positively about these ‘small pleasures” and “small victories” online.

“Social media social distance” is becoming a trend for some, as we take to social to surround ourselves in some positive news and affirmations, breaking away and distancing ourselves from the negative headlines in the media. In this sense, social media is feeling like a positive escape for many.

Taking a deeper look at pride, we see that this emotion was particularly high at 9pm on April 11th, when we took to social to show our appreciation and solidarity for the frontline and healthcare workers and honour those who have lost their lives to the illness, using the hashtag #ShineALight. We felt a sense of unity and positivity, and feelings of ‘Anger and Frustration’ and ‘Fear’ were the lowest they have been for the entirety of April during this time. This really highlights the power of a positive movement uniting us as a nation and bringing us comfort and hope during all of the turmoil. 


There has been a notable shift in  feelings of anger and frustration in recent days. For the most part, as we also saw during March, feelings of strong anger and frustration continue to be fleeting. However, these negative emotions are being felt at a much closer range to those feelings of positivity, particularly as we move towards mid-April.

Understandably, a large portion of this frustration is focused on the feeling of being ‘fed up’ and grieving for the lives we once had, as the lockdown progresses with no clear end in sight. Aligned with this frustration is a feeling of helplessness that we cannot protect and help those we love who may be vulnerable, or who are currently fighting the virus. Many are also asking themselves and the nation, “Could we do more?”, indicating again that we feel powerless in the situation.

Anger continues to be felt and expressed towards those who are still not complying with the correct social distancing measures. Many users are taking to social to ‘shame’ those who are still “meeting up with friends”, while for many of the rest of us, we have been unable to see sick loved ones.

For some, we are also feeling some resentment and frustration that Covid-19 has taken on ‘scare and control’ tactics. People are questioning whether ‘fear’ is being used unnecessarily to scare us into believing false claims about the virus. Some are feeling extremely irritated that this scaremongering has lead us to ‘lose our common sense’ – believing everything we are hearing from others without questioning it. On a similar note, there is also some frustration over the feeling that the truth is being suppressed – we have no control over the information we are receiving and so we are forced to believe what the news and the government are telling us. 


Feelings of fear continue to dissipate as the weeks progress. While we understandably saw relatively consistent levels of fear continue throughout March as the virus took its toll on the country and we entered the strict national lockdown, now that we move through April, we are seeing lower levels of fear.

Some of the fear and concerns that we are currently feeling are centred on those with disabilities in Ireland and those who are vulnerable to the virus in nursing homes. There was also some evident fear during the bank holiday weekend, with general concerns and worry that people may become ‘complacent’ regarding the lockdown measures as a result of the nice weather. Most recently, there has also been a strong sense of anxiety and worry amongst Leaving Cert students about the delay in their exams, and the effect of this on their mental health. In addition, some users working on the frontline have expressed anxiety over the fact that they can’t switch off from work when they are not there, and are constantly thinking about their next work shift.

What is interesting to note, is that as a result of Covid-19, while worry and fear over the virus is apparent, our overall feelings of fear and worry outside of this virus have lowered somewhat, as users are expressing that they are worrying less about the little things in life due to the fact that “we are all in the same boat” with Covid-19. Ultimately, this virus has put the smaller, every day worries into perspective for many.


So what happens when we sense-check how the nation has been feeling overall, pre and during the pandemic, not just specific to Covid-19 conversations…

Say what? A pandemic resulting in a more optimistic mood? As we can see from the graph, feelings of anger and frustration have lowered since we entered this pandemic, being pushed down by overwhelmingly higher feelings of optimism and pride. Interestingly, what this is really telling us is that during a crisis, what unites us is our ambition to remain positive online, and express gratitude and praise for all the hard work that is being carried out for the good of everyone in the country. The pandemic is ultimately leading us to be a more appreciative nation, and social and digital platforms are currently a predominantly positive space to be for a brand that aims to use its voice to lend a helping hand.

Data Discoveries

Date: 8 April, 2020

Google Search reveals a new normal

Joe Ronan

By Joe Ronan

Media Connections Strategist

In 2018, the most searched terms in Ireland were ‘world Cup’, ‘Meghan Markle’ and ‘what is the backstop?’. In 2019 this changed to ‘Rugby World Cup’, ‘Gay Byrne’ and again, ‘what is the backstop?’.

Now, just 3 months into 2020, our ‘celebrities’ are those stacking shelves and donning scrubs, major sporting events like the Olympics have been cancelled, and Brexit seems like some fond memory of a simpler time.

Very few things act as a better barometer for society than what people are searching for. Search can often feel like holding up a mirror to mankind, accurately reflecting our biggest fears and greatest needs. In times like these, search tells a story of human beings and their remarkable ability to adapt to change.

Here’s just a few examples of what we’re searching.

Self-Sufficiency is Soaring

Social distancing and mass closures of services deemed ‘unessential’ have caused an 83% plummet in visits to places Google categorises at ‘retail and recreation’. This has given rise to a new trend – one of self-sufficiency.

‘How to cut your own hair?’ has been a breakout search with many amateur barbers taking to the clippers for the first time. Not ideal, but needs must! And it’s not just their own hair, we’re also seeing spikes in searches related to dog grooming too, bad news for lil’ Milo perhaps, but good news for your wallet?

With restaurants and cafes closed and people spending more time at home than ever before, this newfound self-sufficiency is making its way into kitchens too. If your Instagram feed looks anything like mine, for the past two weeks you’ve probably seen enough banana bread and fakeaways for a lifetime. Across YouTube there’s been a 49% increase in video views for content around ‘cooking’ and ‘pantry meals’, as people try to get creative with whatever’s in their cupboard.

Across the board there has been massive increases in search terms containing ‘for beginners’, with people trying their hands at everything from painting rooms to gardening and DIY. But does this present a problem? Our chefs, gardeners, bakers and barbers have been hit hard by this pandemic. The vast majority of their customers will return once normality does, but perhaps they all won’t – and therein lies a problem.

IRL Unnecessary?

Part of our new normal has meant getting used to our home being more than just our home. It’s now our office, our gym, our favourite restaurant and our local pub. For those with kids, from 9am-3pm it’s also a school.

Just a couple weeks ago, searches for ‘yoga online’ overtook searches for ‘yoga near me’ for the first time as people strived to keep up their fitness regimes. Creators the world over have responded to this demand for fitness content and YouTube has seen a 57% increase in daily uploads for videos with ‘workout at home’ in the title. While gyms across the country have closed their doors, home fitness equipment is sold out everywhere online.

Students struggling to adapt to their new learning environment are watching ‘study with me’ videos with views up 52%. This is exactly what it sounds like – you sit and study while watching another person study in the background. A strange concept in many ways but what isn’t right now?

Houseparty, an app no-one had heard of up until a few weeks ago is now #3 in the Irish app store. Socialising has become two-dimensional with team quizzes, casual pints and first dates finding new homes inside our devices. Shared viewing has even evolved with searches for ‘Netflix party’, Netflix’s shared viewing plug-in, spiking in the past weeks.

Again, what does this mean in the long term? Will people still be willing to pay €50 a month to sweat it out in a crowded gym? Does the risk of an awkward first date sound so excruciating now that it’s socially acceptable to meet virtually first, in the comfort of your own home, knowing the ‘end call’ button is conveniently within arm’s reach?

Silver Tech Explosion

When China first put the city Wuhan on lockdown back in late January, an interesting change started to occur. Elderly people, no longer able to leave their homes, began to move  at a rapid pace to online purchasing, using apps for home delivery as well as entertainment. Online retailer Alibaba claimed the number of grocery orders placed by users born in the ’60s was four times higher than normal and online orders for medication related to chronic diseases (including high blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis) increased by over 200%.

We’re starting to see that here already. Questions across search like ‘how to order groceries online?’ or ‘who delivers groceries?’ are up 446% compared to the same period in 2019. Online retailers such as Tesco have had to put out messages asking consumers to shop instore and prioritize delivery slots for the elderly.

With visitor restrictions in place, hospices and hospitals are putting out requests for donations of old iPads and smart phones to allow elderly patients to stay in touch with family and friends. Meanwhile, some senior centres are transitioning from in-person classes to online formats, something which would have been next to impossible pre-Covid.

This rapid migration provokes some interesting thoughts. Are the elderly the next big growth market for the tech industry? Will this often ignored segment offer an exciting, perhaps unexpected, source of growth for e-commerce and online business? And as we design products for the future, is it no longer just socially responsible, but also commercially advantageous to design online tools and products with the needs of our aging population in mind?

Will it stick?

That’s the big question, isn’t it. We know habits and routines have been temporarily thrown out the window since Covid-19 went and upended the way we live. Surely, when this is over, things will return to normal again… right?

In a recent thought piece, The Economist detailed how the London tube strikes of 2014 impacted travel behaviour in the long term. When the strike hit, it forced people to change their route to work. So, like humans have done for millennia, Londoners adapted. They started cycling, they walked, they took the bus instead. What’s interesting though; once the strike ended, about 5% of commuters kept up the behaviour change. 5% might not seem like an enormous number, but we’re talking about a transport service that accommodates two million passengers daily. That’s 100k less people crammed into the tube each day.

Let’s take that same logic and apply it at a national level in Ireland. On average, a man will go to the barbers 5.84 times a year. A 5% change to the number of men getting their haircut professionally would mean (roughly) 700,000 less haircuts in Ireland every year for the male population alone. Imagine that same effect applied across every sector impacted by this pandemic. That’s a lot of pints, take-away coffees, meals, gym memberships… you get the drift.

The beginning of this new decade is full of uncertainty for many brands and industries. But it’s also a time rife with innovation and opportunity. We’re seeing new audiences coming online for the first time ever and people making positive changes to the way they live, work and consume. Right now, search can’t predict the future (I hear Google are working on it), but the familiar adage ‘adapt or die’ feels more relevant than ever before.

(If you enjoyed nerding out over these search trends, check out this report from Google on How brands can help during the coronavirus pandemic)