Little Boxes – Conforming to the New Norms

Many of you, particularly baby boomers and older have heard this song written by Malvina Reynolds in 1962 and made famous by Pete Seeger about the development of suburbia, associated with conformist middle-class attitudes that dismayed many social activists of the time.   The song mocks suburban tract houses that were filling up the hillsides across the country as “little boxes” of different colors “all made out of ticky-tacky“, and which “all look just the same.”

Now that the perpetual threat of COVID-19 has changed our way of life, I suspect many of you are seeing the “little boxes of 2020” through countless ZOOM meetings. These are our current “neighborhoods. Whether it’s for work, or to see the grandkids, or connect with your friends, or for medical and other appointments, we now live our lives in these little boxes that by now are starting to “all look just the same.”

As we all find our own ways of conforming to this new reality, be sure that you aren’t just having “ticky tacky” conversations in order to fit in.  Here are a couple of things to consider:

  • For meeting hosts, be clear why you are meeting, and what you aim to accomplish – even if it’s just to have fun. Otherwise, you will miss the mark on meeting others’ expectations.
  • In large group ZOOM meetings with video cameras on, participants can feel the need to force a smile for the duration, when often just a few voices are heard, especially as there is usually no design for who talks next.  The dominant personalities continue to dominate making it difficult for the others to continue to aimlessly smile quietly.
  • For large ZOOM meetings with video cameras “off” for participants, the chat room is where all will go to be heard.  Be sure you are moderating comments, and allot the time to address as many of the comments and questions posted, either during, or after the meeting.
  • If you are participating in an online conversation just to conform to what is expected of you, know that you have the same options you would have if invited to an in-person gathering:  to say, “not feeling up to it today,” or “I really just need some time to reflect,” or “thank you, I will miss you this time, but looking forward to getting together soon.”

Finally, remember, that we will all actually see each other “physically” once again.  The “little boxes” will be needed less then. You will once again need to think about wearing nice, less comfortable clothes.  You will  reduce your screen time, and society will rekindle old ways and find new creative ways of expressing ourselves, strengthening our families, work, friendships and society.

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