Life after lockdown: Here’s how the pandemic has shaped the lives of young people

In the wake of a pandemic, something has become clear to us at the ABC.

Young people feel a gaping hole after their ability to connect, explore the world and learn who they are has been taken away from them.

Lockdown and isolation have left a lasting impact on the lives of young Australians – and it’s important that we share their stories.

So who better to do it than young emerging media students who have experienced this firsthand?

ABC News’ 50:50 Equality Team wanted to discover a handful of unique and important digital stories to share with the rest of the world.

The 50:50 Equality Project focuses on increasing the diversity of Australian voices in our stories and building connections with communities.

We like to experiment with our storytelling and how we reach our audience.

We wanted to not only give contributors a platform on which to share their point of view, but offer them a unique mentoring opportunity, allowing them to take a step forward in the world of media (in whatever direction they choose to go).

Hundreds of apps later, we gave ourselves the difficult task of choosing a few to share with a national audience – and their experiences resonated widely.

Here’s what they shared with us.

Human connection is key

Jayden (left) is grateful for the strong bonds he has forged with his ‘family’. (Supplied: Jayden battery)

Jayden Drums gave us his remarkable perspective on what life is like running an at-risk men’s apartment building in Melbourne’s inner suburbs.

But rather than paint a picture of misery and despair, it shows us that human connection and the joy of caring for those around you (no matter what that looks like) can help heal loneliness in a world which can often impact the most vulnerable people in society.

Porn is not a black and white problem

Oil on canvas of a young man sitting at his desk, watching a woman's legs, with red high heels, going through her computer.
Isaiah Gee opened up about his complicated relationship with porn.(ABC News: Claudia Leonard)

We were incredibly impressed with Isaiah Gee’s ability to articulate what is firmly considered a taboo, dirty or immoral issue, even in 2022.

For an 18-year-old college student, venturing into the topic of porn consumption, sexual identity, and how we treat women accordingly was a real highlight of this project.

Travel is a lost rite of passage

Pippa at the beach 1
For Pippa (left), traveling to Australia has led to unique adventures and new friends.(Provided)

The pandemic has affected everyone’s travel plans, so this story was relevant for many of us.

But it was the single loss of that special gap year or long summer break that made so many young people dream of a stolen adventure last year.

Pippa salmon had the chance to escape during confinement. His love of the outdoors and analysis of future travel options now that the borders have reopened is an inspiration to all generations.

TikTok cannot replace live music

splendor in the grass
All the live music moments Abbey had been waiting for were in limbo. (PA: Regi Varghese)

Wiltshire Abbey is passionate about music. But when the pandemic hit and everyone headed inside, the excitement and anticipation of seeing his favorite bands was taken away from him.

She was certainly not alone.

As Abbey explains, many Australians have felt this loss, only to find that there is some sort of alternative in TIkTok. While it can’t replace the sweaty joy of a live concert, it has helped young people feel connected to the music scene amid the isolation.

We forgot kindness in our quest for connection

Two young women are sitting on the sofa in a living room and laughing together.
Lauren (right) and her friend Yasmine have dealt with the tricky world of dating together.(ABC News: Lauren Gallina)

For Laurent Gallin, dating during a pandemic was both complicated and rewarding.

You don’t have to be a Gen Z member to feel the impact of isolation and loneliness. But for a younger generation, navigating love, sex, and dating can be very confusing.

Lauren gives us a taste of what she’s been through, how her friend navigated her own cultural identity, and how we can all learn a little more about kindness in our quest to connect.

So where to go from here?

Not only was the ABC blessed with access to important stories from young people, but the students themselves said they were incredibly grateful for the support and learning opportunities our organization provided them.

It is clear to the 50:50 Equality team that it is important to collaborate and share the views of Australians from all walks of life and we look forward to continuing on this path this year.

If you want to know more about the project, you can read more about our strategy here.


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