Alla Svirinskaya

Hacking The Norm

Blog published on 29th September 2020

When speaking of norms, we often think of behaviours that have been exercised so frequently generating a collective belief which eventually becomes normalised thus establishing the norm.  There is a threat that the norm of in-person communication which we take for granted and which is vital for humankind is slowly being hijacked through virtual means.  The norm of in-person interaction is becoming jeopardized with the fear of Covid-19; businesses, service providers, learning institutions exemplify the infamous motto ‘business as usual’ with the continuation through virtual applications. The recent lockdown and current restrictions demonstrate how easy it is to continue through the use of technology; it is with this ease that the norm of in-person communication is being hacked with the excuse of the virus and which is becoming the latest social trend. I am not advocating that we dismiss the risk factors; on the contrary, I understand that during the pandemic, we do have to adapt to certain changes and comply with the necessary measures.  However, I do object to the notion of equating new measures as an equal replacement of the in-person interaction that would have occurred pre-Covid-19.

I accept software applications can provide an appropriate compromise for the current period through an online platform and that this is necessary to a certain extent. However, I have a particular concern with virtual meetings including doctor appointments, lectures becoming normalised and presented as an equal replacement of in-person interaction.  I value the in-person interaction too much, and must emphasise its significance, to suggest there is an equal substitute.

Covid-19 has transformed the globe in record time; the necessary measures of social distancing encourage a withdrawal into ‘bubbles’, sterile from human energy.  However, it’s vital to understand that the human energy exchange is indeed crucial for our wellbeing and survival of humankind.  Throughout civilisation, humankind has been diverting from a natural state of being: over the past 150 years, posture, lifestyle rhythm, diet and breathing have suffered consequent to a fast moving social-economic reality.  I do not wish to see our in-person communication to be irreversibly compromised with the replacement of a virtual norm; its replacement will only threaten a further decline in our natural state of being.

Every norm develops through time and occasionally they stem from a need: a simple but classic example is hygiene; the need to stay clean has established the norm of having a daily shower. Whilst we must comply with the restrictions, recognising in-person interaction is limited in the current climate: we must accept the existence of Covid-19 does not permeate our natural state of being; we cannot accept virtual communication to be the new normal rendering human actual presence as a vestigial.

Virtual interactions must remain a compromise and a surrogate serving the current climate to deal with this temporary situation, however long the period may be.  Virtual interaction does not hold the value of real human presence and will fail to generate the same interpersonal alchemy; we should not allow this virus to erode our values and basic human needs.

Put the "old normal"in-person exchange on hold, but protect it from the full stop.