It has been over a year since schools were shut down, concerts were cancelled and offices were closed. Keeping distance and wearing a mask have become second nature. The distribution of vaccines has shown us a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. But that doesn’t mean life will completely go back to the way it was before. A post-COVID world will be a new type of “normal,” and this is how some things are changed for good.
An economic downturn followed the start of the pandemic—businesses closed, millions lost their jobs, world trade was disrupted and tourism became almost nonexistent. But with vaccines becoming more widely administered, individuals are more inclined to start spending money like they used to.
This spring, for example, there has been a noticeable uptick in travel and trip planning. Air travel has hit a “new pandemic high,” according to CNN, and Airbnb and hotel bookings have seen a surge in bookings.
But with many eager to travel and purchase after this long period of waiting, some economists worry that there will be an overload of spending and that the economy may not be able to handle this sudden spike.
“Covid has sort of reintroduced people to the business cycle by illustrating how events that are sometimes unpredictable can seriously affect the economy,” said Shannon Derouselle, a professor of business law at the University of Miami’s Herbert Busines School.
While unemployment rates are still high and small businesses’ work hours are still low, stocks are near an all-time high, the housing market is thriving and the shift to online shopping has accelerated. And according to a CNN “Back-to-Normal Index,” the U.S. economy is operating at 86% of where it was in early March.
While it was stressful for some to think about the declining economy during the pandemic, others were focused on the positive environmental shifts taking place. Less traveling and working from home meant less carbon emissions from transportation. Experts are reporting that society’s response to this unique opportunity—a year-long stalemate in society—will lay the groundwork for our climate trajectory for thousands of years to come. While carbon emissions are down as of right now, concentrations are still rising as a whole. “Individual action—driving your car less, attending a meeting via Zoom rather than taking a business flight—is not going to be enough” said Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre in Exeter, United Kingdom.
Experts are calling for systematic action on international and state levels, meaning structural changes need to be put into place and continued far past the end of the pandemic. “These seemingly small changes offered the ability to collect data on the effect of what is happening in real time,” said Alexander Humphreys, a professor in the geology department at UM.
Based on numerous reports by environmentalists, it looks as though the Earth has experienced more positive effects than negative effects since the pandemic began last year. Although this does not account for future consequences that are not yet known. For example, the increase in single-use items creates an entirely new wave of waste that the Earth will be left to endure. “These new kinds of disposable masks going everywhere are kind of like the new plastic bags,” said Humphreys. “Now we have another waste product that is being discarded everywhere and ending up in our oceans.”
Smiling at strangers when you pass them to feel a sense of connection seems to be a thing of the past. The weirdest part about the pandemic for some is the way that masks changed the way we, as humans, communicate with others and the environment around us. Shielding our faces, becoming unrecognizable at times, allowed us to ignore and melt into our surroundings.
When masks come off and life returns to “normal,” will interactions return to what they used to be? Will people restore society through small acts of kindness, like picking up dropped coins for the person in front of them? Or will insecurities, social anxiety and fear of sickness pave the road ahead? “I have gotten used to seeing only the top half of people’s faces, but I am so excited to see people’s smiles again,” said sophomore Danni Mackler.
These are the years teenagers were told they would experience success, failure, pain, love, joy and disappointment. Of course, these emotions can still be felt throughout a global pandemic, but many feel like they have been robbed of many “real life” moments. Casey Grafstein, a sophomore at UM, shares how awful it felt to miss out on the opportunity of meeting her new baby cousin and experiencing the joy that her family shared together. “I wish I could have been there to celebrate this moment with my family, being that it’s not often we all get to be together” Grafstein said.
With life goals and aspirations being put on hold, many young adults have reported a lost sense of self and a lost sense of motivation.“It may seem like a temporary setback for a teenager to lose out on an internship, but that missed opportunity can echo for years if it constrains their worldview or their sense of what they can achieve in life,” one article from WebMD wrote. Ariel Hartzy, a student in the Herbert Business School, said she feels a huge disconnect when trying to learn through an online platform. She said she felt “discouraged and unmotivated through the lack of interaction with peers and professors.”
After the pandemic ends, there are going to be many different reactions. While some people may have a sigh of relief and run to concerts and gatherings, mirroring the energy of the Roaring 20s, others will still be worried about social interactions for years to come, simply having gotten too comfortable laying low. Globally, as communities begin to become more “normal”, every aspect of life will be reworked. Economically, environmentally and socially, the world will look drastically different in a post-COVID world.
Back to Normal
- Only 12% of workers said they want to return to full-time office work, while 72% want a hybrid remote-office model moving forward. From BBC’s Future Forum research on 4,700 knowledge workers.
- 53% of consumers said that it is ‘quite likely’ or ‘very likely’ they will shop online more often, even after the pandemic. Findings from a survey of online consumers from nine countries conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
- 62% of respondents said that they would prefer to keep virtual classes as an option after the pandemic. Based on 212 respondents to a Distraction Instagram poll.
- 71% of respondents said that they will continue to wear a mask when on airplanes, even after the pandemic. Based on 189 respondents to a Distraction Instagram poll.
- 82% of customers said that they will still order delivery or takeout from a restaurant after the pandemic is over. From the Zagat’s Future of Dining survey.
words_emma goodstein. photo_teagan polizzi. design_avani choudhary.
This article was published in Distraction’s summer 2021 print issue.