Coronavirus Connections: Most Americans Reach Out to Distant Family, Old Friends, Survey Finds

Coronavirus Connections: Most Americans Reach Out to Distant Family, Old Friends, Survey Finds
Graphic: Nathaniel Blum

BeenVerified Team
June 8, 2020

More than half of Americans digitally reconnected with distant friends and far-flung family in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the societal turmoil that followed, according to a new survey by BeenVerified.

Top Takeaways: Who are reconnecting?

  • Most Americans are reaching out: More than half of 1,000 respondents (54%) said they’ve reconnected with loved ones and friends after the coronavirus struck.
  • Siblings, grandparents are the top reconnections: Across age groups, family members topped the reconnection list, starting with brothers and sisters (45%), extended family such as grandparents, aunts/uncles and cousins (35%), followed by children (31%) and parents (24%).
  • Neighbors and high school friends, too: Most common friendship reconnections during the coronavirus were neighbors and high school friends (19% each), former work colleagues and ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends (14% each), college friends (8%) and grade school friends (6%).

Other takeaways: Generational differences

  • Generation Z most likely to reconnect—Gen X least likely: Generation Z (respondents 23 years old and younger) were by far the most likely age group to reconnect, with a whopping 75% of respondents reaching out to family and friends as the pandemic struck. Generation X (ages 40 to 55) was the only age group where slightly more respondents (49%) said they didn’t reconnect with distant family and old friends during the pandemic, compared to 47% who did.
  • Zoom-boom among grandparents/grandkids? Phone calls (63%), text messages (51%), email (37%) and Facebook (31%) were by far the most common reconnection method; on video, most popular was FaceTime (12%) and Zoom (10%). The top two age groups who used Zoom? One in five respondents 75 and older reported using Zoom to reconnect, followed by Gen Z (17%).
  • Generation X, Millennials most generous: When Gen Xers did reconnect, they were more likely to offer financial support (19%), followed by millennials (14%). Baby boomers (ages 56 to 74) and silent generation (75 or older) offered financial help with 10% and 9% of their reconnections, respectively.
  • Healing old wounds: While most communications were to check on family and friends’ emotional wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak across the country, nearly one in 10 reached out to resolve old issues or conflicts. This is especially true with Generation Z, where 19% reconnected to resolve existing conflicts.
  • Re-lighting old flames? Millennials were the most likely age group to reconnect with exes during the pandemic. Of respondents who reached out, more than one in five communicated with an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend during the lockdown.
  • Most reconnections by phone: Phone calls (63%), text messages (51%), email (37%) and Facebook (31%) were by far the most common reconnection method; on video, most popular was FaceTime (12%) and Zoom (10%).
  • Still planning to reconnect: Of the 46% of respondents who didn’t reconnect with loved ones, nearly one in five say they still plan to do so. Other top responses include: “No time;” “Don’t know what I’d say;” and “Don’t have their contact information.”

“The coronavirus situation has been bewildering for all of us, which may explain the trend to seek out familiar relationships and in some cases repair past hurts,” said Justin Lavelle, spokesman for BeenVerified.

Top coronavirus reconnections

BeenVerified conducted the online survey in May, asking people who they have been proactively reaching out to during the coronavirus pandemic. Among all respondents, reconnecting brothers and sisters, followed by extended family such as grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts, were the top responses.

“We were surprised at first to see siblings and extended family top parents/children, but respondents are more likely to already be in regular contact with parents and children,” Lavelle said. “And extended family, such as grandparents is, of course, the age group that is most vulnerable to the pandemic.”

Who people reached out to during the coronavirus pandemic

How people reached out during the pandemic

Phone, text and email were the top ways people digitally reconnected across all age groups. While Facetime was the most popular choice for video chats, 20% of respondents age 75 or older reported using Zoom, followed by Generation Z respondents (17%). Zoom usage for other age groups was 10%.

“What we think is happening here is what we’re seeing ourselves among the BeenVerified staff—young adults are checking on the health and welfare of their grandparents during social distancing with Zoom,” Lavelle said.

Communication methods for reconnecting during quarantine chart

Top coronavirus reconnections by generation

Drilling down into generational differences, a few trends emerge among the generational groups who digitally reached out to during the pandemic:

Generation Z reaching out most during the pandemic. “As these are younger adults trying to finish college or start careers, it makes sense that they are most in need of support, especially during the historic layoffs that followed the outbreak,” Lavelle said.

More millennials, Gen Xers reconnect with former lovers. Our survey found 22% of millennials reached out to ex-boyfriends and girlfriends during the pandemic, followed by 17% for Generation X.

Baby boomers most likely to reconnect with former work colleagues. Nearly one in four baby boomer respondents reached out. “Again, we wonder if this is an outcome of economic conditions, as more people are reaching out looking for work or advice in the wake of historic unemployment levels,” Lavelle said.

Silent generation reaches out to children, neighbors, college friends. Respondents 75 and older were most likely to reach out to sons and daughters, neighbors and old college friends.

Who people reconnected with by generational group

Top reasons for reconnecting

Generation Z, millennials most likely to try to resolve conflicts. Among respondents, the younger they were, the more likely they reached out to resolve past conflicts: Nearly one in five Gen Zers and 14% of millennials.

Generation X, millennials most likely to offer financial help. Our survey found 19% of Gen Xers offered financial support when reaching out, followed by 14% of millennials. “Given their age group, Generation X is more likely to be sandwiched between young adult children and living parents—both of whom may need more financial support,” Lavelle noted.

Reasons people reconnected during coronavirus pandemic

Reasons people reconnected during coronavirus by age group chart

Reasons why people didn’t reconnect

Of the 46% of respondents who said they didn’t reconnect with friends and loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly one in five responded they are planning to reach out; 18% of respondents replied either they have no time, don’t have contact information, or don’t know what to say.

“It’s clear even among those who haven’t reached out that there is a desire to do so, but time, circumstances or even what talk about appear getting in the way,” Lavelle said. “It’s telling that only 3% of respondents said they don’t want to reach out to friends and family during these trying times.”

What stopped people from reaching out during coronavirus chart

Methodology

BeenVerified conducted the online survey of 1,000 American from May 4 through May 29, asking participants to select from multiple choice questions, as well as the option write-in their own responses. We then analyzed the data by generational groups: Generation Z (ages 23 and younger), millennials (24 to 39), Generation X (40 to 55), baby boomers (56 to 74) and the silent generation (75 and older).

For more information or press inquiries, please contact Justin Lavelle (justin@beenverified.com).

About BeenVerified

BeenVerified’s mission is to help people discover, understand and use public data in their everyday lives through a number of services, including a people lookup tool. BeenVerified and our associated websites curate dozens of public data sources and proprietary data sets to give people easy and affordable access to billions of public records.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.