Are you secretly dreading the day when social distancing is just a vague memory? When you once again have to physically interact with other people, whether you like them or not? Chances are you are not a social deviant or a freak, but a representative of the new normal.
The long-established preference for, and mastering of, face-to-face interaction with other people is considered tantamount to a high level of social functioning. Conversely, the image of a person with low social functioning is one who avoids physical contact, peering out at the real world through a (digital) keyhole. This is, of course, a gross oversimplification, but it points to the fact that, while society at large has undergone a massive digital transformation in recent decades, the theories that define “normal” in human interaction are still moored in the physical world.
The reason is that the physical world is the most desirable of worlds because theories about normal human behavior were developed back when the internet was still a pipe dream and over a decade before social media tore apart our social fabric.
An analogy from the car industry would be measuring how much we drive by looking at fuel usage alone. While this made sense in the nineties, it would be downright wrong today, given the explosive growth of electric cars in recent years. Similarly, the measures we have implemented for social interaction lack precision and are inadequate in describing contemporary patterns of “normal” social behavior and preferences. In other words, we need to rethink normal.
It’s All about Matchmaking
In order to find out more about “the new normal”, we implemented a large-scale, qualitative, in-depth investigation of 82 young individuals’ experiences with current social life, aiming to develop an empirically informed theoretical model of face-to-face and social media interaction (Bjornestad