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What 2021 taught us

2022 tyne valley express

A new year, a new you. Although we do not shed our skins entirely and become new people, we do try to be better than the previous year. It is time to set goals and evaluate what we want 2022 to be. 

To do that, we reflect on the previous year, what we have accomplished, what we did not accomplish and how it went in general.

2021 was a monumental year full of ups and downs. All we had to do was turn on the news to see what was happening around the world and how it could affect us at home, (I am looking at you Suez Canal crisis back in March). 

Covid is still with us, even now, and the vaccination process started in earnest. I took the vaccine happily. I work in an NHS setting and I felt it better to be cautious and protect those around me than to not get it at all. I also know people who still refuse to be vaccinated, their choices are their own, and my only hope is that their decision is informed and well thought out.

The pandemic has shown us many lessons. One of them is that in the face of adversity we come together, and we also come apart. What we have done in our communities is great; donating to charities, setting up new businesses and supporting one another. But there have also been examples of protests, violence, and abuse. We are fickle, quick to anger and slow to heal. But the road is paved with good intentions, and change never came quickly. 

Changes have happened, however.

We are slowly changing the way we work. The Google Year in Search showed that the term how to start a business was searched more than how to get a job in 2021. We recognise that our hobbies could turn a profit, and we take that giant leap of faith to close the economic gap. 

In addition, employers and employees finally recognise that burnout is a ticking timebomb and more of a problem than it ever has been. It is not surprising; this pandemic has been a marathon rather than a sprint. According to an article from the Guardian on the subject, “A survey of 40,000 staff across 114 organisations by the mental health charity [Mind] found the wellbeing of 41% of employees had got worse during the pandemic, while about half of respondents said their work-life had interfered with their home life.”

To combat this, businesses have granted more weeks off or changed their business models to help reflect this. Just look at the new cultural shift from the standard 9-5 office hours, which are now offering more flexible hours with the intensification of working from home, and the change from five-day working weeks to four. Individually, people remember to leave work at the door rather than allowing it to take over every moment of the day. They also take technology breaks to immerse themselves back into the real world. 

We have never relied more on technology than before. Whether it is Zooming/Skyping meetings or with loved ones, or spending hours scrolling for entertainment, we immerse ourselves in our screens. But the digital age is fraught with advantages and disadvantages. 

Going digital is accessible. Thousands of more people can be reached, from many different countries and all levels of society, with less effort.

Also, in the Google Search Trends of 2021, a top search was how to say I love you in sign language and how to learn sign language in general. Media such as Hawkeye on Disney Plus and films such as A Quiet Place, which have prominent deaf characters, have certainly influenced this trend. In addition, learning sign language is something I have always wanted to do and is one of my goals for this year.

Currently, there are different structural inequalities, and everyone has a unique perspective on them. We must respect these inequities and recognise how these are important to those around us. 

Another change of the last year is that people are getting to grips with how addicting social media is. I did not get my first phone until I started secondary school, but now I see toddlers using tablets or phones widely in their day to day lives. It is a dangerous line to walk on: how long we should have with technology. And while the online world is informative and educating, it is also a minefield of content. But we are not slaves to robotic machines – this is not a Sci-fi novel – we can make our own choices on how involved we are in this digital age. 

Another trending search of 2021 was affirmation and body positivity, showing that we know that most images are Photoshopped and do not reflect a realistic body. Appearances are changing; less likely to fit in with the current trends, which change all the time, and more on being natural. Although resolutions will focus on fitness, dieting and losing weight, people now know how toxic these can be. Exercise is becoming more about health rather than appearance alone. 

Climate change and sustainability have also come more into the spotlight. Search interest on how to conserve reached an all-time high on Google in 2021. From a business perspective, people expect brands to lead the way to make sustainability more manageable in their daily lives. For example, the magazine you are reading this article on is recyclable, with the paper coming from sustainably managed forests. Another search on Google Trends for 2021 was how to move with plants. People searched for that more than how to move with kids or how to move with pets. This proves that our family dynamics are changing over time too. 

To conclude, 2021 proved that change is possible even if some aspects remain the same. We have learned lessons from previous years and can use them to forge forwards into 2022. The focus for this year should prominently be to have ourselves at heart. Consider what will help ourselves, our businesses, and our marketing efforts, and keep that in mind every so often as we walk into the new days of 2022. I cannot wait to see what this year has in store for us.

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