Covid-19, Sociology

Sociological Relevance Of ‘New Normal’: Exploring New Social Norms And Practices

The pandemic crisis has brought forth a phase of ‘new normal’ which has presented before us a plethora of social norms and social practices. This ‘new normal’ imperative has brought about major transformation in different aspects of society in terms of physical distancing, social solidarity, understanding, coping and accommodating with the new social practice, impact on social isolation and marginalization of community, paradigm shift in social research, emphasis on ‘social health’ instead of ‘mental health’.

1. Physical Distancing and maintaining Social Solidarity: As Aristotle has proclaimed, ‘Man is a social animal’ and are unable to survive without social interaction, adjusting to this new norm of physical distancing has been difficult for humans (irrespective of gender). This new normal brought forth by the post-pandemic situation has initiated the issue of maintaining 2-metre distance with one another in order to avoid close contact which increases risk of diffusion of COVID 19. As Emile Durkhiem, one of the forefathers of sociology, rightly pointed out the importance of social solidarity in society, accommodating with such norm followed by physical distancing has also been challenging due to limited face-to-face interaction.

2. Understanding the new social norms and practices: “Social norms prescribe actions that produce socially beneficial outcomes, even when those actions have costs for individuals”. Shared beliefs about appropriate actions get reflected in social norms with the expectation that others will follow them. For example: Greeting each other has undergone a major change due to physical distancing caused by the spread of COVID 19. Nowadays, alternative greetings (non-verbal interaction) have come into existence which has taken the form of Namaste hand prayer (folding the hands together in prayer), elbow bump. Homeschooling or online classes has brought forth new practice of digital learning or digital education with the hindrance caused by Digital Divide!

3. Coping and Accommodating with new normal: This pandemic situation which has locked all of us in a Home ironically termed as ‘SAFE’ has been subjected to controversies due to the increasing Domestic Violence of women and men and elderly people. While on one hand, spending quality time with family has helped in maintaining the functionalist perspective, on the other hand, domestic abuse (irrespective of gender and age) has increased rampantly. Social stress coupled with financial insecurity has resulted in the significant rise in violence against men and women. There seems to be no other respite than coping and adjusting with the ‘abuse’ caused by new normal phase. The problem has been manifold for disabled children as well —— “a longing for adhering to a routine, rigidity in behavior which reduces the likelihood of an unanticipated event, and avoidance of situations where an outcome is indeterminate”. Most disabled children are suffering from anxiety related disorders due to the pandemic
crisis which continues to exist even during the post-pandemic phase.

4. Impact of social isolation (of patients) and marginalization of community: With the shortage of accommodation in hospitals and nursing homes, patients have also been advised to stay in home isolation which has increased the risk caused by marginalization from community. As reported in news channels, some neighbourhood community had ostracized patients residing in their community due to the phobia of being infected by the
disease. Such kind of social ignorance affects the psyche of the concerned patient and brings forth the issue of ‘Untouchability’ (caused by clinical casteism) and ‘social stigma’.

5. Paradigm shift in social research: The major challenge posed by the pandemic crisis and new normal happens to be in conducting social research. Sociologists and social researchers are being challenged by new norms of physical distancing since sociology deals mostly with primary data where social interaction plays a pivotal role. Due to the norm of physical distancing followed by covering of mask, free and viable interaction has become limited which has affected social research. Qualitative research, especially ethnography has become the major victim of the new norm which has resulted in a paradigm shift from face-to-face and free social interaction to a limited interaction with the suggested measures of distancing.

6. Social Health as the cynosure of new normal: The lockdown caused by the pandemic situation has also affected human psyche with problems like depression, anxiety related disorders, hypertension. Though these terms are mostly psychological, yet sociologists perceive them through their perspective of social health. Any kind of mental disorder is always caused by the hegemonic social norms or social situation in which the concerned
person is situated. Such emphasis on social health has been due to social factors like marginalization from family and community, social stigma which has resulted in depression and other mental health related disorders.

With such steeping rise in new social norms and practices with the onset of ‘new normal’, society is also undergoing social transformation with its positive and negative implications in one’s everyday life. The challenge ahead for sociologists is to recognize the ways to limit ‘social interaction’ and also how to ‘de-familiarize the familiar’ as social beings!!

REFERENCES:
Gupta, Achala & Chadd, Katie, Experiencing the ‘new Normal’: Sociology of COVID 19 (Pandemic) from a Disability perspective, April 2020,
https://discoversociety.org/2020/04/06/experiencing-the-new-normal-sociology-of-covid-19-pandemic-from-a-disability-perspective/ 

Mishagina, Natalia, The importance of new social norms in a COVID 19 outbreak, March 2020, https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/march-2020/the-importance-of-new-social-norms-in-acovid-
19-outbreak/ 

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