Americans admit to watching shows or movies to feel less alone during pandemic

AMERICANS were relying on their TV screens to feel less lonely during the pandemic, according to a new poll.

Since the start of the pandemic, four in 10 Americans have experienced GOMO — grief over missing out — while watching movies or TV shows about other people living “normal lives.”

The survey of 2,000 respondents found the most common GOMO triggers involved scenes of characters eating at restaurants (60 percent), shopping at malls (52 percent), swimming in pools with friends (44 percent) and just trying new experiences (43 percent).

In fact, the GOMO got so bad that 38 percent of respondents admitted to watching shows or movies to feel like they were “secondhand socializing” through the characters on screen.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Westfield, the survey also asked people to describe what they’re most looking forward to now that they're getting back out this summer, and how they'll overcome their pandemic-induced GOMO.

Respondents were most excited about trips to restaurants (50 percent), visits with family and friends at home (44 percent), in-theater movie screenings (34 percent) and going to the mall (24 percent).

Survey-takers also cited smaller pleasures like spontaneously walking into a new store and trying on new clothes in person (both 46 percent).

Other small pleasures respondents look forward to included bumping into a friend or acquaintance (44 percent), ordering from a waiter in a restaurant (40 percent) and some good old people-watching (25 percent).

Americans are also planning to hit up the movie theater twice a month on average, after more than a year of having to watch new releases at home via online streaming and video-on-demand services.

“With nearly half the country vaccinated and restrictions easing, we’re seeing pent-up consumer demand for high-quality in-person experiences like dining, shopping and attending movies,” said Karen Strack, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Westfield.

Results also showed that 48 percent of people are over online shopping and are happy to be able to shop in-person again — so much, in fact, that 63 percent now feel like in-person shopping is a special treat.

Gen Z (66 percent) is the group most likely to include shopping at the mall as part of a perfect day out, compared to just 34 percent of baby boomers.

The things people missed most about in-person shopping were being able to try clothes on before buying them (49 percent), browsing the aisles and shelves (46 percent) as well as seeing and feeling the quality of an item in person (44 percent).

The immediacy of in-person shopping also has an impact, with 73 percent agreeing that the ability to go home with their purchase right away was a big factor in their return to malls.

When asked about their budget for future shopping trips, respondents hovered around $139 as a “feel-good” amount to spend in a day — while $271 seemed, on average, like “too much” to spend.

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However, some are planning to throw caution to the wind to make up for the GOMO of 2020, with 31 percent of respondents admitting they plan to spend more on clothing this year compared to last year.

“Shopping centers have evolved from communal places of commerce to large-scale destinations for events and experiences,” said Karen Strack, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Westfield.

“The pandemic has underscored the value of community and socialization to consumers, which is why having these types of communal spaces — in addition to top-rated dining, quality entertainment options and a dynamic mix of leading and emerging brands — is so important.”

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