Editor’s note: Chris Hubble serves as CEO of market research and consumer insights agency Bastion db5. 

As Americans begin to weigh the risks around COVID-19 this summer, there’s still a high level of caution. Yes, people are anxious to resume normal activities such as going out to restaurants and concerts, traveling and (above all else) being able to hang out with family and friends. Of all the layers of life that have been stripped away by the pandemic, the loss of casual intimacy, such as quality time with friends and family, has taken the biggest toll. In April 2021 we teamed up with Vox Media and surveyed more than 1,000 people to gain insights into social attitudes moving into summer 2021. Several key insights were gleaned regarding how consumer preferences have changed over the last year. 

Unsurprisingly, Americans did less entertaining and hosting in 2020/21. Large events and parties were the primary victims to fall by the wayside, with 59% saying they avoided large gatherings of 10+ people; 56% saying they avoided clubs, meetings and associations; 55% saying they avoided in-person celebrations such as weddings and birthdays; and 49% saying they avoided even smaller gatherings of eight or fewer people.

The attitudes on gatherings have changed, but don’t expect people to go wild in 2021. Many are merely thrilled to regain a sense of balance, somewhere between hermit and social butterfly. On average, respondents expect their social events to increase in 2021/22 by just 30%. Most do not expect to host or attend an event more often than every other month, about six total events in the year. While 75% are excited to be social again, there remains fear about hosting with only 28% of American’s looking forward to hosting people in their homes vs. 51% are excited to attend events thrown by their friends or family. Of all the things that people are looking forward to, seeing friends and family ranks ...