The Age of Anxiety: Resilience Culture and Fake News…

This week we’ve been reading about the increasing need for resilience and a few insights have caught our eye…

We are in the Age of Anxiety. From mindless Instagram strolling, to The Sex Recession, to Brexit, 21st century life is anxiety-inducing and many of us are struggling to cope. A UK government report suggest that 30% of Britons will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. While it may be true that these kinds of psychological worries aren’t new -the 1980s was known as the age of ‘stress’ with many national newspapers identifying it as the newest ‘killer’ — the responses to these experiences are. From the rise of safe spaces to radical transparency, this week we look at the attitudes and behaviours underpinning our current climate of anxiety and explore the how positive innovation may be a great remedy for brands to leverage to help those suffering.

In their most recent insight report, The Anxiety Economy, JWT claim we are currently living in a culture of instability and disruption. “Current behaviours are driven by fear” explains the report “from the extreme (and the paranoid) to the more justified” the uncertainty of the current political, economic and cultural climate is taking its toll on people’s wellbeing.

From the rise of fake news in 2016, to the unveiling of data protection scandals in 2018 to the more recent revelations around false claims of health technology company Theranos, there is understandably increasing scepticism about consumerism. Such distrust is having an adverse reaction on people’s psychological wellbeing, and a result people are demanding accountability and transparency to ease their anxieties.

Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos

Another way people are responding to the uncertain world-at-large is by seeking security and protection in “safe spaces” or ‘comfort zone living’. Loosely defined as a space free of conflict, criticism or potentially threatening actions, the last few years have seen the popularity of such space increase dramatically — both online and offline — to offer increasingly anxious people refuge from our polarised and fraught world.

However, safe spaces have been criticised for creating a generation of snowflakes who are hypersensitive to emotional trauma. Or as one US commentator described them: “snivelling, whining, entitled brats who believe that everything should be handed to them on a silver platter.”

A proposed response to the rise in anxiety is the adoption of the trait of resilience. Loosely defined as the ability to recover from or adjust to change, resilience presents as a potential solution to some of culture’s current problems. Resilience isn’t just about toughening up,’ says The Future Laboratory co-founder Martin Raymond. ‘It’s about relearning, rebooting and recalibrating brands, businesses, corporations and, more importantly, ourselves, as we push back against the age of SAFE”. In 2019, resilience is about equipping people with the tools, education and skills they need to protect themselves from the harsh world around them.

There is an opportunity for brands to step up and offer people assistance and advice in this age of anxiety the increasing demand for security, trust, stability and emotional wellbeing means brands must think with people’s best interests at their heart. We believe a very powerful way brands can do this is leveraging positive innovation, innovating with people’s happiness and wellbeing in mind. Rather than mitigating anxious experiences, positive innovation instead focuses on enhancing people’s positive experiences making human happiness the ultimate goal.

The Human Experience (HX) learnings?

The polarising world of today is a worrying and anxiety-inducing place to be. While Safe spaces offer people protection from the fraught world-at-large they do not offer longer term anxiety remedies. Brands must make an active commitment to understanding people’s emotional wellbeing if they are to successful innovate in the Age of Anxiety.

Clemmie Prendergast is a consultant at Brand Genetics, an insight and innovation agency specialising in human-centred insight and innovation. With a background in anthropology, she has a wealth of experience in behavioural science and psychology and has worked in strategy, insight and behaviour change.

Human-Centered Insight, Innovation and Trends from Brand Genetics

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