7 Social Norms That Should Never Return Post-Coronavirus

Caitlyn Love
October 9, 2020

When COVID-19 first hit at the end of February, it felt really difficult to adjust our routines. Having to stay home all the time felt strange, we missed visiting friends and family, and we often felt like we’d forget the steps required to protect ourselves.

Now, as we enter October, we’ve adjusted to this new “normal.” As we dream of a (hopefully soon) future without a pandemic, these previously routine elements of our life better not return.

Going out in public when you’re sick.

Why did we ever normalize forcing employees and students to enter our small, enclosed buildings and spread their germs for 8+ hours? The flexibility of working from home should never go away. We all have families, many with small children, and workplaces must continue accommodating for personal issues like health. Let’s stop normalizing sneezing and coughing into open air during a conference room meeting.

For essential workers, this luxury isn’t as available—but without masks? If you’re not offered the ability to take care of yourself at home, it should be the responsibility of your employer to protect those around you by supplying masks, at minimum. With the number of people that retail and restaurant workers interact with on a daily basis, I can’t imagine ever not having a mask on again. No one’s health is worth being put at risk, even from a simple cold.

Unassigned and overbooked train seats.

If you’ve had to travel via train at all throughout these past few months, the experience has been vastly different. Seats are assigned, trains are filled less than half capacity, and they thoroughly clean on a regular basis. You’re supposed to keep your face mask on the entire time, which I’ve been thrilled to see most people doing. 


I also find the entire concept of unassigned train seats to be strange. We’ve mastered this system on airplanes, why can’t we figure it out on trains too? Please Amtrak, don’t ever go back to the chaos of marching up and down the aisles to find a seat. Sincerely, a petite college young woman who’s tired of asking businessmen if the seat beside them is taken or not. And no, I do not need help putting my bag overhead.

Bake sales, self-serve buffets, and punch bowls.

There’s a lot to unpack here. The community food experience simply must go, for all germ purposes. Obviously circumstances revolving around immediate friends/families may be exceptions, but I don’t even want my grandma’s cough to end up in my Shirley Temple. More importantly, I could never know what germs I have on me that could end up in my elderly grandma’s Shirley Temple. This pandemic has taught us that it isn’t always about ourselves; sometimes we need to care more about protecting those around us.


That being said, there’s also a lot of businesses in the buffet and food industries that are suffering as a result of this new care for hygienic eating practices. Hopefully there can be an alternative that emerges that doesn’t have to involve spreading a cold, but keeps these hardworking businesses afloat.

Standing in crowded lines, under any capacity.

Why do you need to stand so close to the person in front of you in the grocery store? Are you going to reach the checkout line any faster? Stop breathing on the family in front of you, and let’s all wait our turns.

You know when I can support being way too close to someone? In the TikTok trend where you invade your pet’s personal space to see how they react. I’m all for some cat and dog snuggles moving forward instead.

Hugging and shaking hands upon greeting.

Again, this one has an exception for close family and friends. But, when you run into your college roommate from 2016 on the street during your lunch break? A simple wave should suffice.

This also expands into greeting people in a professional work setting. I remember being taught the importance of a “firm, strong handshake” when I was in middle school, if not earlier. How did we choose which gestures were most acceptable, and why can’t we also undo it? Let’s pick a new one that doesn’t involve spreading germs, like the now-classic elbow tap.

Not holding influencers accountable.

With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement since George Floyd’s tragic death, Instagram became an infographic hotspot. Many trendy bloggers filled their feeds with aesthetically pleasing designs so they couldn’t be accused of being insensitive, only to not speak on the subject since. Let’s not let them get away with that and stop letting important topics fade away as the media cycle shifts into the next tragedy, and the previous one is forgotten.

Here are some accounts you should fill your feed with instead.

Instagram stories showing off your Apple Watch statistics.

I get it, everyone has been out for plenty of walks over the last few months. But please stop posting a photo of your sweaty wrist with your calories burned every single time

One positive of the Apple Watch photo is that it has kick-started this social media movement away from gatekeeping healthy bodies and our unique differences. There’s been a growth of non-retouched photos, more transparency about lifestyle and exercise, and a general body positive energy on our feeds. That I would definitely like to stick around! 

While I’m begging that these old social norms don’t stick around post-pandemic, it’s true that we have learned something valuable from each of them. Even though the thought of a virus-free future is still too far away to dream about yet, I look forward to the day I can politely elbow my boss or spaciously check-out at Stop and Shop—please.