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.