The winds of change
Cultural moments related to race, civil liberties, and politics have become a global focus in recent months.
The Covid-19 pandemic contributed to mounting tensions worldwide, as individuals faced economic hardship due to unemployment and healthcare costs, as well as illness and general anxiety. 30% of tracked respondents indicated that they felt very cautious about the future.
Protests against issues ranging from police brutality, to infringement upon civil liberties, to the negative economic impact of lockdown on communities have contributed to civil unrest.
Research shows that Black Americans have been among the most negatively impacted in terms of unemployment and Covid-19 morbidity rates. Existing racial inequalities and heightened anxiety with the pandemic have contributed to the growth and longevity of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Protestors gathered in cities around the world to show support for the movement.
As the December 31 2020 end to the Brexit transition period approaches, people online have expressed concern about a no-deal Brexit negatively impacting the UK’s access to medical supplies and unemployment, particularly as Europe faces the possibility of a second wave. Many say that PM Johnson indicated that the deal was “oven-ready” at the start of the transition, but no plan has been determined to date.
As countries prepare for general elections, many people have discussed how Covid-19 is impacting how candidates campaign, and how people vote in person and by mail. One of the most frequently discussed topics in forums has been whether the pandemic will impact the outcome of upcoming elections.
People online are talking about how New Zealand postponed elections due to a new outbreak. US conversation includes conjecture that electronic and absentee ballots could be tampered with.
Covid-19 has created a perfect storm for discussion of conspiracy theories, which included assertions that the virus:
- Was a result of the electromagnetic waves of 5G network towers
- Was created as a biological weapon in a lab
- Was part of Bill Gates’ plot to implant digital microchips to track and control people
- Was the result of genetically modified crops
- Was a plot by big pharma to sell vaccines
- Simply doesn’t exist
The misinformation and disinformation within these theories (and where they appeared) politicized a global pandemic and highlighted how media sources influence information. Ultimately, 44% of survey respondents indicate they trust medical authorities and scientists for Covid-19 information.
Covid-19 has widened socioeconomic inequities that impact people’s ability to work, educate their children, and access necessary healthcare.
The pandemic has magnified the fact that internet access is a basic necessity. Internet connectivity enabled non-essential employees and students to work and learn remotely, and for many to continue to receive the routine healthcare they needed via telemedicine. People also leveraged video conferencing software to safely stay connected with loved ones.
Not everyone, however, had access to the technology they needed, as not all individuals can afford the internet or have the electronic devices to support their remote needs. Communities worked to bridge the digital divide by providing loaner laptops for students, and cable companies provided free internet access to underprivileged communities.
News that 5.4 million people in the US lost health insurance during the pandemic – the highest annual increase of uninsured ever recorded – yielded ~40m social engagements.
Online discussion lamented the expense of health insurance, and some asked why dental and vision are separate types of insurance.