For over two years, our lives were put on hold due to COVID-19. Once we recognized that normalcy would not return as quickly as we had hoped, we had to find ways to cope and adapt. Some people managed to do so and even thrive, as evidenced by the numerous online businesses that emerged. On the other hand, others were less fortunate, with increased mental health problems such as anxiety and depression observed during the pandemic (Gruber et al., 2021; Marroquin et al., 2020).
There’s little doubt that people changed throughout the pandemic. Social media is constantly displaying stories about individuals turning hobbies into businesses, becoming successful media influencers, and more. These stories are all great, but this is not the average pandemic experience. I wanted to know how regular university students talk about their experiences of change during the pandemic, but there was a surprising lack of research on this topic. This interest stemmed from my personal observations, as I noticed that even once things were mostly back to normal, some of my friends still did not want to go out as much as before and would rather stay at home. However, I also noticed the opposite: once places were open again, some people wanted to make up for lost time by going out all the time.
As an aspiring research psychologist, I decided to explore this question through my undergraduate honors thesis. I interviewed local university students and asked about new hobbies, changes in sociability, and the impact on their relationships, among other topics.
I ended up with a rich set of data on change throughout the pandemic. One intriguing finding was the diverse range of hobbies people picked up during the lockdowns. Lots of people took up calming activities such as reading, painting, and journaling. Others spent a lot of time on social media and streaming services.
In terms of introversion and extroversion, the results were mixed: some participants felt that they have adapted to being at home and now call themselves homebodies, whereas others want to get the university experience they missed out on. Some reported that they don’t think they changed.
Overall, it seems like people’s experiences of change during the pandemic are extremely diverse. Fortunately, some positive aspects emerged, such as the opportunity to explore new interests during the lockdowns. Hopefully we can keep learning new things, but this time, without another pandemic!