Life

The Vice Census: How Thousands of Young People Really Feel About Lockdown

We conducted a census of our readers to see how the last 12 months have been.
Ryan Bassil
London, GB
March 26, 2021, 9:15am
VICE census
Photo: VICE

Life’s been getting weird for a while now. From the day the UK plunged into lockdown on the 23rd of March, 2020, we’ve bounced between stay-home-orders and obsessed over what the world will look like when “this” is all over.

Some things we know for sure. Others – like who we’ve become through the pandemic – are less clear-cut.

To reflect on the last twelve months, VICE conducted a census of our readers on Instagram, where the average age of our following is 18-34. Between 5,000 to 10,000 people answered each question, with an average response rate of 8,100 respondents per question. We also invited readers to slide into our DMs and respond with further detail where they felt appropriate.

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One year on, here’s how people feel about coronavirus, drugs, partying, sex and other important stuff.

CORONAVIRUS

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Let’s get the big C out the way first: 74 percent of our respondents give a shit about coronavirus. Of the 26 percent who don’t, their frustrations seem to mainly be centered around the virus slamming the brakes on our lives.

Harry, 27, told us: “I’ve had it and it was minor. It’s fucking everything up. We just need to get on with it now.” An anon respondent, riding out to a similar tune, said: “Fuck it, it’s boring now.”

That said – a huge 79 percent of readers stated that they are worried about the future. More than half the respondents told us they were feeling more politically engaged as a result of the pandemic.

“It’s heightened the sense that political decisions by the government can directly affect our lives,” said Ishita, 20. “Before now, the link between politics and our quality of life wasn’t as clear. COVID-19 has put that into sharp focus.”

Bringing finger pointing into the game, Dean asked: “Will you ask if people are averse to the vaccine, even though they’re happy to work their way through three kilos of bugle on a Saturday night?” Poll is over now mate, but thanks.

CASH

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Another C here, though it could also be a D because that’s right – we’re talking about debt. Coronavirus has not been kind to our bank balances.

Responses to our survey include: “Weren't self-employed long enough to get the furlough”, “yes struggling so much” and “he lost his job and I fell pregnant”. So, yeah: It’s not been great.

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In total, 68 percent of readers said coronavirus had meant they were worse off financially, 42 percent said they were furloughed and 50 percent said their university course had been affected. Meanwhile, one reader who shall not be named responded: “What pandemic?”

Forty-three percent of respondents have been trading and getting into cryptocurrency as a way to boost finances. Alex, 30, said: “Started putting money that would just sit in my bank account into crypto because I had nothing to spend it on. Think it’s up 4x which I’m pretty stoked about.”

In another message, he then clarified he’d “turned £50 into £1,500” but “lost it all in 30 minutes”. Be careful with those dips.

LOVE AND FRIENDSHIPS

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Some friendships have suffered in lockdown – jostling around with pals just isn’t the same when it’s done via a neglected WhatsApp group chat with diminishing returns.

Fifty-six percent of readers said they had lost a friend in the past year. It’s not all bad though; for some, the extra time has been beneficial.

“I gained back friendships I had lost from being too busy,” said Laoise, 22. Stats in our survey back this up: 41 percent of respondents said they had revived a friendship this year.

Sex-wise, it’s never been more difficult to bang because getting involved with another person’s body is technically still against the law. Still, anti-sex legislation hasn’t stopped most people.

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“I’ve seen my girlfriend multiple times. Like, human nature is a strong fucking thing, my dude,” Maddy, 20, told us. “But I’m aware it’s selfish.”

In fact, almost half of you (41 percent) reported ignoring rules about having sex during coronavirus. This includes George, 17, who responded saying that they’d “broke the first lockdown to have sex and a week later she broke up with me.” Aww. 

HOUSING

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Throughout the pandemic, there’s been a narrative that people are moving out from cities in droves. According to our survey, that just isn’t true – only 27 percent of respondents said they had moved cities.

Some mentioned having problems in relationships during the pandemic, but generally speaking, those who already lived together have stayed together, Those who lived apart have also stayed that way – just 13 percent of people who previously lived with a partner have moved out. On a similar tip, only 36 percent said they had moved back in with their parents during the pandemic.

PARTYING

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Considering all the news about illegal parties last summer, just 25 percent admitted to attending an illegal sesh at some point in the last 12 months. “I’m not a selfish dumbass,” Alex, 24, told us.

Of those, a large portion of people say they’ve begun thinking differently about messing with their synapses every weekend. In response to the question “Has your relationship toward partying changed?”, 54 percent replied “Yes, I like my health”, compared to 44 percent for “No, I want to get mash-up”. Which brings us to:

ALCOHOL

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Though it seemed easier than ever to crack up a bottle of wine as soon as the temperature hit 12 degrees, having no face-to-face social life in lockdown meant that many people reconsidered their weekly or daily alliance with booze.

Sixty-six percent said their relationship to alcohol had changed in the past year, with only 37 percent drinking more during lockdown than before. One commonly-cited reason was that we’re all cooped up at home rather than holed up in a pub every other Tuesday, but health also has played a big factor.

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Asha, 26, told us they noticed “that alcohol gives me a two to three-day comedown like class As and sends me into a spiral of anxiety”. Several people also said they’d given up drinking altogether.

DRUGS

Contrary to the belief that everyone with access to the dark web is slamming psychedelics to old David Attenborough episodes every evening, drug use is more balanced across the board. Two-pint coke habits are out, ket is in (“I’m buying less coke, more ket,” said one reader), but generally things are going steady. Fifty percent of respondents said they’d reconsidered their relationship with drugs, but the other half also said they hadn’t. 

The breakdown of uppers and downers usage is similar – 51 percent say they’re on the accelerated stuff, compared to 49 percent of people doing downers. Over 70 percent also said they hadn’t changed their drug-taking in the past year, suggesting that a large percentage of people who used to take uppers still take uppers and vice versa. 

Weed, however, is a big one – lots of respondents called us out for not including a “daily” option in our poll asking how often you smoked (“Every day 5AM till 9PM”, said Martin, 45, who is clearly young at heart). Generally though, 67 percent of people who responded said they smoke weed less frequently than every two days. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Unsurprisingly, people are more anxious than ever before. The silver lining is that we are – mostly – getting healthier. Nihilism is fading; self-care is in.

Is this the calm before the storm when clubs re-open on June 21st or have our lives been changed forever? The adage says only time will tell. Like the Irish poet Ronan Keating said: “Life is a rollercoaster / just gotta ride it.” Or, as The Streets’ Mike Skinner eagerly lays out on his recent single: “21st June / Who’s got the bag?” Let’s check in a few months when everything kicks off.

@ryanbassil