With the new year comes yet another round of seasonal optimism — leftover cheer from Christmas festivities morph into something more collected and purposeful: the “new year’s resolution”. In the United States alone, we see close to half a million searches for this subject between the 29th of December and the 2nd of January.
This forced us to look deeper into the subject — what does the internet have to do with people setting goals for themselves?
Online, we find that a lot of individuals are outsourcing this purposeful goal-setting process. On Instagram, we see ready-made resolutions in the form of Instagram story templates that individuals re-post & tick off boxes on the goals they want to adopt for their own.
In the United States, while individuals search for “New Year Resolution Ideas” or “Good New Year Resolutions”, we find that even searches for “New Year Resolutions” lead them to articles such as 45 Best New Year’s Resolution Ideas 2020.
Most of these were last-minute searches — taking place on the 31st or the 1st morning. Clearly, some very deliberate people :)
This chart below shows a snapshot of Salt Lake City — one of the cities with the highest search volume for resolutions — furiously searching for 2020’s meaning while many were celebrating at the Gateway:
Beyond losing weight and saving money, here’s what these articles suggested:
We see a desire for people to exert more control over their daily lives, whether it’s in the material space or the habit space. These include vowing to exercise more financial discipline through more careful budgeting, and actions to control one’s vices, like drinking less alcohol, and eating less unhealthily.
The suggested resolutions also indicate a desire to develop a greater understanding and warmth for one’s community. These goals include volunteering, donating to charities, and spending more quality time with loved ones.
Possibly motivated by the fear of stagnating, another strong theme was learning new things, whether it includes reading more books, learning a new language or skill.
How might we read these resolutions?
The desire for control indicates the urge to reset and reorder the status quo. The desire for human connections indicates the search for a state of human-ness in oneself. Lastly, the desire for knowledge reveals the instinct to constantly seek growth.
However, seasonal optimism, being seasonal, leaves again. Come February, it is possible that many will take to social media, self-deprecatingly reporting how they have broken their resolutions.
As critical observers of this phenomenon (and maybe participants too), we believe that the February failures aren’t where we should place our attention. Rather, we should look deeper at why we set the resolutions we do, which might give us an insight into what might be lasting resolutions.
The desire for control, connection, and knowledge are key facets of being human and could count as lifelong aspirations. Entering a new year is like hitting a milestone- one step further in the journey of life. Resolutions are a way for people to take stock of where they are versus where they want to be.
The act of making resolutions is, thus, symbolic, representing the recognition of one’s state of lack and the desire to restore oneself. It tells us that what people are missing in their lives runs deeper than losing 5 pounds or taking up yoga.
What does this mean for institutions and businesses that communicate with people at scale? How can they fulfil this desire for greater empathy, connection, and learning through their work?
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