Continuing on the ever-so-trendy topic of the Coronavirus, I wanted to explore the phrase that everyone talks about and has to clarify almost everyday: social distancing. I said before that the word just doesn’t sound right, and many mainstream media are supporting that claim. You might’ve come across articles, or news reels, about taking care of your mental health during this time and not be trapped in your head all day. Or others that proclaim that social distancing does not mean avoiding communication with others, rather ensuring to limit contact and sanitize regularly. While all of those are true to keep in mind, then shouldn’t we change the name to something like. . . physical distancing?
Not only has the virus impacted the globe in an economic, societal and cultural way, but so has the phrase “social distancing”. I’m not just talking about the hashtags of people doing things from home, I’m referring to how people have been negatively changed by it. Not only have people overcompensated by buying out everything at the store, they do the same when it comes to human interaction. The slightest sniffle or cough can cause knee-jerk responses to run away and put on a bio-hazard suit; if they’re not already in one. Trust can be shaky as even avoidance of neighbors is happening. Although, in some cases, it could even bring together neighbors. And what began as major events, where hundreds and thousands of people can gather, being canceled have now upgraded to where no one can go out; or it’s “highly encouraged” to stay in.
Some countries require documentation to leave, while others don’t right now. However, as the virus makes it way West and South, the uncertainty of time comes with it. People work from home, or are laid off from it. Combine that with the restrictions from shopping and other amenities, and that essentially leaves us cooped up in our residences. For those who had reason to not stay home, this period of time just became their worst nightmare come true. For others who thrive on social interaction or being outdoors, it became a test of willpower and endurance. The irony is that the world is calling for societal separation, but we’re doing something else instead.
What we’re basically doing is limiting our physical contact with others to prevent risk of spread. And it is there that lies the struggles so many of us are experiencing. It’s been said that humans need a daily average of 5 physical contacts daily. Whether it’s a hug, handshake, fist bump, kiss or whatever else. Even if it’s not direct contact, just being within proximity of our fellow people can bring ease. That doesn’t happen today at the grocery stores, though, as we fight for supplies and scoot around each other to avoid possible sickness. See we’re not being un-sociable right now. We’re talking with family at home, texting our friends, and messaging others on social media and beyond. So if we’re still being social, even if it’s not in the way we like, then why do we persist to call it “social distancing” when that is not the case? In a world of terms like fake news, false reports and others which insist the public is being given wrong information, then why is the biggest global misinformation still being tossed around?
Perhaps, in a way, the small blessing from this global lockdown is technology. While we are eternally grateful for technology providing us an escape, and a way to reach out to our friends and others, this time has shown us that we don’t want to be cuffed to it. Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, we’re seeing that millions of people don’t want to just be stuck at home all the time. They want to go back out, be productive, and (most importantly) see other peoples’ faces. There was always this dread that one day society would forego human interaction, and instead be one with their phone or whatever else emitting blue light. That may still happen one day, but perhaps this pandemic delayed it.
So many want to go out, and get fresh air that feels real. Not a hastened breath as we rush to the store then come back home. They’re doing their best whether it’s sitting on the sidewalk to talk to their neighbors across the street, playing sports with the people behind the fence, or watching a movie from windows at an apartment complex. They are ready to connect with the world again, in real life, not digitally. People take for granted many things daily, and this global event may have shown them the importance of human interaction and communication. But with the constant talks including “social distancing”, it keeps people at bay instilling nervousness. That same nervousness affects business’ trust to bring workers back. So let’s start changing the narrative.
Whenever I hear “social distancing” it makes me feel like I’m in timeout from society. What did we do to deserve a timeout? No, as mentioned, society is not the thing being affected. It’s physical contact. Unfortunately, governments can’t be commanded to lift quarantines. So for countries, like Italy and Spain, the wait to go out depends on them. However, for places like here in the US, it’s still a bit lenient. It’s ‘highly encouraged’ to stay in, but truth is there will not be an expiration date for this virus. And there will not be rain like in Fantastic Beasts to wipe clean every nook and cranny of the cities we live in. The streetlight buttons won’t be wiped clean, the bus stop seats won’t be, the canned foods at the store aren’t, nor will many other things. Or if they are they eventually will stop. It’s not meant to scare, but rather normalize (like the term physical distancing).
See I’m not saying go pull a Rudy Gobert and start rubbing everything you see out there, but are we overreacting a bit? According to Johns Hopkins (see link in the name), the death from common flu was over 291,000 in one year; whereas this virus is about 17,000 a couple months in. Make no mistake, death is a terrible thing, and we should take safety precautions like avoiding contact, sanitizing and keeping to ourselves if we are already sick. But to shut down the economy, affecting many countries drastically, has to be reconsidered. Maybe slowly bringing people out, saying it’s okay as long as you’re being precautious might help. Not only does the economy need a jolt, but so do so many of you feeling trapped inside your homes. Whoever was behind the marketing campaign to name it “social distancing”, instead of simply “physical distancing”, should think about what they started. Having the courage to allow people to resume normal living will take time, as this idea of bypassing staying in will be shut down immediately. But what can be done now is normalizing saying “physical distancing” instead. Encouraging others that it’s okay to talk and interact with one another out there, while taking proper precautions. For if we keep having to explain what “social distancing” really is, while highlighting what to do in a physical interaction context, don’t you think it’s time we changed the name to a more proper one?