When COVID-19 is over, what will be the new ‘normal’?

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By Jane Ogeah

Before the first world war came, the people were contented, or so they thought. They had most if not all they needed to survive, it was not readily known if something or a certain lifestyle was missing, everything was ‘normal’. But when the guns fell silent and the war came to its end, the world changed, eyes were opened to several deficiencies and a void stood blatantly before them.

To fill the emptiness, first, new technologies were developed – airplanes were made stronger, quicker and sophisticated; U-boats invented, new methods of communication developed, photography ameliorated, and cars improved.

Then, women started to gain more recognition in the society after the active roles they played during the war most of which was to keep the businesses afloat and earn money to take care of the children. The patriarchal stay-at-home consensus, started to rescind, they were emboldened to substitute their ball gowns with trousers, they won the right to vote and society developed a different impression about them.

In the same vein, the reverberations of the second world war affected every if not all aspects of the society, from technology to politics and down to the economy.

Now, as the world grapples with COVID-19, an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus that was first identified in the Wuhan community of China in 2019, the mind is occupied with the devasting effects viz.

• 3,083,474 confirmed cases and 212,508 deaths the world over as of the time of this report on 28th of April 2020.
• Global economic haemorrhaging not just from having businesses shut down and plunging the people even deeper into poverty, but the costs of managing the health of people and keeping the economy working.
• Deterioration in societal development both in infrastructure, increase inequality, exclusion, discrimination, and global unemployment in the medium and long term.

These predicaments have put a halt to what is presently considered the normal way of life. But what is normal? Merriam-webster defines ‘normal’ as a behaviour that conforms to a standard or regular pattern.

It is perhaps safe to say that normal for most people is going to work in a physical office space, taking trips outside own place of residence, reading the news in tabloids, making physical contact with others, touching anything that piques the interest with little or no care for hand wash, regular appearance at social gatherings, a wasteful demeanour to food and money, amongst others.

However, with more than one-quarter of the world’s 7.8 billion people now confined to their homes and unable to go about their normal lifestyle, there has been an urgent need to devise and gravitate towards alternative survival mechanisms. Despite the harrowing experience, this global health crisis which is unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations will eventually run its course but thereafter, what transformative impact will be left on the society?

Will the value of social independence be appreciated? While the unprecedented measures to curb the spread of the virus may be tearing at the social fabric of societies, people are becoming improvisational with staying entertained, socially active, and more independent of friends and other agents of socialisation. Since with the situation it is no longer a question of whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, a social slut or a loner, everyone is forced to find contentment in their own company with emphasis on embracing a vibrant hobby and maybe, just maybe when all these is over, people would learn that despite the imperativeness of socialisation, an elongated alone-time can also be valuable.

Will remote-work setting become the real deal? With the lockdown, corporates have been forced to retreat to their homes and away from their physical workspaces. This presented a more sophisticated and flexible use of technology. People are now more than ever gravitating towards the technological alternative of the modus operandi – a remote work setting – at the comfort of their homes and at their own pace. Albeit employers may argue that this remote method has put a strain on deadlines, but the improved quality of work done cannot be denied. Even Human Resource personnel are embracing virtual interviews and corporate event managers canvassing webinars.
The implication therefore is that in the future, exotic buildings will hold little or no meaning to businesses and their clients because getting the work done will be all that would matter, no one would care from where it was done.

Will social media completely replace traditional media? Since the advent of the internet, traditional media has struggled to remain relevant between fighting to break the news first and garnering enough audience. Unfortunately, the social media have surpassed on both counts and just as the lockdown hue and cry began, there have been a five-time increase in the number of social media users with posts pouring in in torrents on a daily basis. With radio and television stations constrained to deliver optimum services as a result of precautionary methods taken against COVID-19, the social media on the other hand, soars. Government and business executives, corporates, artisans, everyone is adjusting to reading the news from online platforms rather than the usual tabloids. Religious organisations have also resorted to celebrating services online.
The implication here is, people may no longer see the usefulness of traditional media and this could very well be the beginning of the end of traditional media.

Whatever the response to these questions and many more, one thing remains certain; this predicament has something to teach, a pattern to rearrange, a society to reshape, a new life to build, a relationship to reorient and a new ‘normal’ to beget.

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