As we wade through this moment of catastrophe, isolated from our friends and colleagues, we’re at home, yet feeling displaced. Many of us are assuring ourselves that things will soon return to normal, but is the old normal what we’re really looking for?
I’m struck by the very real feeling that the cultural sands are shifting, right under our feet. Societal structures have changed for the entire world and whilst we are largely contained to our homes, the quarantine appears to be having a liberating effect on our minds, at least for some. The extraordinary speed with which the world changed has empowered a growing community of influential thinkers and makers to redefine what’s “normal” through action, rather than just conversation or criticism.
We can see this shift most clearly in the world of pop culture and influence.
Like most people, I cringed at the ways celebrities and influencers tried to address the emerging crisis with content guided by worn out formulas and years of programmatic media training. Yet I’m inspired by the diverse, multigenerational crop of influential thinkers emerging on social media, buoyed by their ability to engage authentically in the midst of uncertainty. These new influencers are finding extraordinary success on platforms like TikTok, Discord and Twitch, whose social dynamics are more intimate and unfiltered than those of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and the like.
Similarly, some major brands and cultural institutions are quickly adapting their ways of working to shape the new normal. The crisis has created a space where innovative minds can sidestep the red tape of establishment thinking, and push the best ideas through in order to truly move at the speed of culture. I think it’s important to hold on to that energy going into the new normal, and not defer back to the status quo.
As retail staff and healthcare professionals work at the front lines of the crisis to keep society functioning, I believe the current moment is a time for us to ask ourselves, “What parts of the old normal are worth leaving in the past, and how can we take action to create the new normal, the one that we want?”