Friends, one who lives in New York City, the other in a small town in Maine, agree that the current national experience is going to have a profound impact on our culture. We are not so sure.
It is certainly having an impact today; that is an enormous understatement. We are conscious of pathogens like never before. We are interacting with others far less. Many of us are working in ways we didn’t think about just a month ago. We are working from home and using communication technologies more than we thought we would. Teachers are using Zoom to create virtual classrooms. How many of us didn’t know what Zoom is? And we are shopping less and differently. The internet has been called the death knell of brick-and-mortar stores. It has indeed made business difficult for some sectors, but only two months ago only 13 percent of all purchasing was being done online. Today Amazon is busier than ever.
Will any of this stick when the coronavirus has finally run its course? It’s difficult to know.
The Great Depression certainly had great impact. We have had older friends who, 70 years later, still shopped for bargains, even though their financial position didn’t require it. We knew others who always paid in cash and carried a lot of it.
But the Depression lasted years; the coronavirus, we hope, will abate in two or three months. That might not be enough time to change people.
Our guess is that when this is over, people will rush to resume their former lives and habits. The residual effect may not be that people change the way they interact or buy goods, but rather that they go back to their old habits with more exuberance than ever.
Somehow, facing dreary days ahead, we hope that is the case.