Why the “New Normal” May Not Be What You Expect

I’ve recently been hearing and reading a lot about “the new normal,” or “the next normal.” Even as we’re struggling to adapt to unprecedented life changes, it’s no surprise we’re already wondering what happens next.

Two weeks ago (wow, has it really been that long?) I wrote about how we can expect the changes in remote work, entertainment, and retail to remain at least semi-permanent in the months and years to come. We’re creatures of habit, and weeks of forced changes to our routines will etch permanent grooves in our behavior.

the world is temporarily closed

But changes will go well beyond those three areas. The political and economic landscapes also remain uncertain. Sure, we might simply revert back to our normal (or something close to normal) civic and commercial patterns. But there’s a non-zero chance that LAWKI (life as we know it) won’t look anything like it did a few short months ago.

This deep dive into a future, post-coronavirus world (thank you, Ryan Broderick) explores what a new normal might look like. Ryan imagines how authoritarian creep, economic challenges, and labor and job changes could play out in the next few months and years.

It can be a sobering assessment at times. But we’re uniquely adaptable creatures. It’s why we’ve survived as long as we have. Usually, the change happens so slowly that we barely notice — or, if we do notice, can adapt with relative ease. Example: in just 13 years smartphones have changed almost every facet of our lives. The way we communicate, shop, navigate, learn, and relax is significantly different than it was in the early 2000s. We’ve adapted to the point where any attempt to revert to a pre-smartphone lifestyle is almost unimaginable. 

The current pandemic has forced bigger changes. And they’re happening all at once. That’s a lot to deal with. But we’ve managed through large social and economic changes before as well. We’re designed to adapt.

We’re currently experiencing — and will continue to experience — massive change and disruption. We’ve only just begun to grasp the full significance of what we’re going through and the long-lasting impact it will have on our future selves. Change isn’t easy, but it’s inevitable. Whatever the next normal looks like, whatever changes come our way, we’ll change with them.