[Weekender] New social norms emerge in the era of COVID-19

As the number of new cases of COVID-19 infection continued to decline, the government began enforcing a relaxed social distancing notice from April 20.

Despite the relaxed directive, many Koreans are still following the “rules” that have emerged in the wake of the spread of the virus.

“When we take our course using ‘Zoom’, we have to wear headphones,” Kim Ki-wook, a graduate student, told the Korea Herald. He explained that if the participants in the live online conference do not use headphones, the sound from the computer speaker can cause reactions for everyone who is listening.

“At first, people didn’t know about this ‘etiquette’ and it was difficult to continue the conference because of the noise,” Kim said.

Kim also shared her experience meeting her classmates on live online streaming platforms to get to know each other better.

“The new semester has started but we have never met. In our class, we often give each other feedback on our work, so we all thought we needed some time to get to know each other. During this meeting, we had to make sure to listen to the person speaking and not to speak at the same time, ”he said.

Office workers who still have to go to work adhere to new social rules.

“A notice on our elevator says to wear masks and avoid talking,” said Cho Seo-jin, an office worker in Mokdong, Seoul. “I saw a man talking on the phone without a mask a few weeks ago. No one said anything to him, but I noticed that everyone seemed uncomfortable.

“When I use the disinfectant spray at the entrance to our office, I also make sure there is no one around before spraying it on my coat,” Cho added. He said there are no penalties for not following these rules, but since it is considered good manners, he and many of his colleagues feel socially obligated to follow them.

“Our HR team monitors us closely and regularly. We were told to wear masks and sit in one seat of each other during meetings. Now most people are following. At first, many people took off their masks during meetings, but our HR staff quickly held up a smartphone screen that said “Please wear your mask” against the meeting room window, ”an employee said. a local IT company on condition of anonymity.

“Our team usually went out to dinner together at least once every two months. But since February, we haven’t done it because our company has banned after-hours group gatherings, ”said Yang Ji-ae, an office worker in Gangnam, Seoul. “We still have lunch together as a team though. But nowadays, no one asks others if they want to share food.

Yang also asks the delivery men to leave the food they bring in front of the door after ringing the doorbell.

“I’m doing this to minimize contact. I think it’s good for the delivery guy and for me, ”Yang said.

Since most labels aim to minimize contact and keep distance, many experts consider them effective in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“I think highly of the public following the new label. Of course, credit goes to the government and the medical staff, but the role of the public was also important, ”said Kim Woo-joo, professor of infectious diseases at the Korean University of Guro Hospital. “I think it was possible because of the experience people have had with viruses such as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and swine flu.”

“A new label like pressing buttons with the back of the hand is great, because the fingers and palms can carry and spread the virus more easily,” said Kim Dong-hyun, president of the Korea Epidemiology Society and specialist in preventive medicine at Hallym Medical School. .

Experts also pointed out that with individuals following new social norms, it is also crucial for society as a whole to make some adjustments for a future pandemic.

“There may be a second wave of the virus this winter. Some experts even say that the pattern of the pandemic may repeat itself until 2024. Thus, the new way of life such as conferences or online meetings will likely become normal for many. As a society, we should be ready for this, ”said Prof. Kim Dong-hyun.

“Unless there is a vaccine (for COVID-19), it’s important to adjust to the situation and have a new label. For example, I think companies like Starbucks removing seats and tables to keep people away from each other is a great idea, ”said Professor Kim Woo-joo. “Our hospital cafeteria also has acrylic panels installed between each seat like a bookcase to physically prevent the spread of droplets. “

Longer term, some experts have said that people will soon get used to social norms and this will soon make our society more individualized.

“Right now, most people are at the stage where they want to go back to their way of life and meet people in person. But if the virus persists for a long time, like until the end of this year, people will soon get used to the new way of life and think that going to work or having a meeting offline is a waste of time, ”he said. said Kwak Geum-joo, a psychology professor at Seoul National University, said. “But while this change is inevitable, it is important to gradually adapt to the situation. For example, learning to focus on work outside of the office can be helpful.

By Song Seung-hyun ([email protected])

About Marjorie C. Hudson

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