End Social Distancing Now!

We need to put an end social distancing NOW!  In fact we should never have encouraged or promoted social distancing.  Social distancing was and continues to be a terrible concept.  It is actually harming Americans in very serious ways.  Shame on anyone and any arm of government that ever suggested that social distancing was a way of staying healthy.  It wasn’t.  It isn’t. And it won’t be.  Social distancing is one of the worst concepts ever proposed.

Before you begin to ready all of your arguments to attack and/or teach me about CDC guidelines, masking, distancing from others and all the important advice that medical experts have been preaching from the start of the pandemic let me explain my issues with social distancing.

First, I have been 100% committed to the CDC guidelines since the pandemic first appeared.  On the few occasions that I venture out of my home I ALWAYS wear a mask.  I use hand sanitizer after every time I touch public surfaces.  I have been hunkered down in my home for virtually all of the last seven months.  I have spent as much time on Zoom as I have on Netflix.  I stay maximally physically distanced from anyone outside of my home. 

Note that I said physically distanced not socially distanced.  So is this just semantics?  A distinction without a difference?  Nit picking?  ABSOLUTELY NOT! 

Coronavirus is the greatest health threat we have faced in more than 100 years.  It deserves to be taken seriously by everyone and regarded as the lethal killer that it is.  It has killed more than 208,000 Americans and more than 1 million worldwide.  7.3 million of our fellow citizens have contracted the virus and we have yet to know what the long-term health effects will be for many of those who survive COVID.  So every imaginable precaution should be taken to keep ourselves and those with whom we have contact as safe as possible from this disease.  We now see that even the leader of the nation and his wife made themselves more vulnerable to the virus because of their cavalier attitude and unwillingness to follow the guidelines of public health experts.

So why do I condemn the idea of social distancing?  Because implicit in the use of those words is that we separate ourselves from one another not just as calculated with a tape measure but also by disrupting interpersonal connections.  I have no doubt that when the term social distancing was first associated with the virus that no one ever meant that we shouldn’t remain connected to our friends, family, and loved ones.  But necessary COVID-caused isolation has resulted in the unintended consequence of separating too many Americans from those who are important in their lives.  The reality is that isolation has resulted in too many of us being disconnected from those who care about us and about whom we care.

Science has taught us that social connection helps to ensure better mental health.  It can lighten our mood and help to make us feel happier. Socialization can lower the risk of dementia and helps to promote a sense of safety, belonging and security.  It can allow you to confide in others and let them confide in you.

Research shows that having a strong network of support or strong community bonds fosters both emotional and physical health and is an important component of adult life.  Socially isolated people are less able to deal with stressful situations. They’re also more likely to feel depressed and may have problems processing information. This in turn can lead to difficulties with decision-making and memory storage and recall. People who are lonely are also more susceptible to illness

Those who have experienced long periods of isolation from other humans don’t necessarily always fare well.  For most of us, it is indeed possible to get along for short periods of time without human interaction, but it is not a condition that we are able to endure indefinitely.

For seniors in particular these signs of isolation are especially worrisome:

  • Deep boredom, general lack of interest and withdrawal.
  • Losing interest in personal hygiene.
  • Poor eating and nutrition.
  • Significant disrepair, clutter and hoarding in the house.

Isolation is both a symptom and a cause of social anxiety. Someone who feels intense anxiety about interactions with others will avoid these encounters. And someone who spends time only in the company of themselves and their worries will only provoke their anxiety further.

(Above excerpted from various scientific resources)

How then do we stay connected while remaining physically apart?  How do we ensure that relationships are preserved?  What can we do for ourselves and what can we do on behalf of those who mean so much to us?

Technology has been a true blessing to us over the past seven months.  Zoom, Google Meet, Face Time, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and countless other social media platforms afford us the opportunity to communicate with words, photos, videos.  We should take full advantage of these ubiquitous forms of virtual communication to check in and talk regularly with friends and family.  It’s not a time for less but rather more interaction making use of every device in our arsenal from the most sophisticated to the more routine.  Emails, phone calls, even chats with our neighbors over the backyard fence.

There was a time when people used their phones to check-in to “chew the fat”, “schmooze”, kibbitz”, “gab”.  As life has become more complicated and time for what may have once been regarded as idle conversation has evaporated, we have increasingly communicated only when we have an agenda or a purpose.  Our communication with others has been changed from a discretionary choice to what we do when there is something essential to share.

With increased and growing isolation it is time to re-think how, when and why we communicate so we can help to foster a sense of Social Closeness, Social Proximity while bringing an end to the idea that Social Distancing is good.  It is not! 

And more than increasing our social nearness with our friends and family we can help reduce the feelings of loneliness and isolation particularly among those who may not have family or other close friends to talk with them.  There are many ways to become a connector with those who spend day after day without company either in person or through virtual means.  If you are part of a faith community, ask if there are programs in place to reach out to those who are alone.  If such a program doesn’t exist consider being a pioneer by helping to start one.

Check with human service organizations to see how you can volunteer to be a virtual friend to someone who is separated or isolated and in need of human contact.  One of my favorite Phoenix-based organizations is Duet: Partners in Health and Aging.  Duet is there for people whose depend on connection through the organization’s virtual and telephonic support groups. Duet connects its network of volunteers with home-bound seniors and others who are in need of a regular call and a friendly chat with someone who cares. Duet’s dedicated volunteers offer essential loving human connection to those who are alone.  Similar friendly visitor initiatives are in place at many organizations.  Find one that will connect you to someone who is alone and become their modern day, high-tech “pen pal”.

This is one of the most stressful periods in our history.  Fears and concerns about the economy, worries about racial inequity and racial reckoning, political divisiveness, and so much more have raised the anxiety and concerns of all of us.  But these issues create unique challenges for those who are alone and lonely, distanced and isolated.

So not only should we eliminate the use of the words Social Distancing, we should do whatever we can to promote social connectedness even while we remain physically distanced until it is safe to once again be with those who mean so much to us.  One day we’ll be able to touch, hug, kiss and embrace those who we have not seen for most of the past year.  But until that day comes, we need to find ways to do all of those things using virtual tools.  Now is NOT the time to be alone or feel lonely.  That’s not natural for healthy, caring humans.  Let’s all do our part to do what songwriters Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson were telling us in their song:  Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)

Reach out and touch

Somebody’s hand

Make this world a better place

If you can

Reach out and touch

Somebody’s hand

Make this world a better place

If you can

Take a little time out (of) your busy day

To give encouragement

To someone who’s lost the way

(Just try)

Or would I be talking to a stone

If I asked you

To share a problem that’s not your own

(Oh no)

We can change things if we start giving

Why don’t you

Reach out and touch

Somebody’s hand

Make this world a better place

If you can

Reach out and touch

Somebody’s hand

Make this world a better place

If you can

If you see an old friend on the street

And he’s down

Remember his shoes could fit your feet

(Just try)

Try a little kindness and you’ll see

It’s something that comes

Very naturally

(Oh yeah)

We can change things if we start giving

Why don’t you

(Why don’t you)

Reach out and touch

Somebody’s hand

Reach out and touch (reach out)

Somebody’s hand

Make this world a better place

If you can

Reach out and touch

Somebody’s hand (touch somebody’s hand)

Make this world a better place

If you can (why don’t you)

Reach out and touch

Somebody’s hand (somebody’s hand)

Make this world a better place

If you can

For more commentaries by Stu Turgel go to: https://thephoenixfile.net/commentaries/


One thought on “End Social Distancing Now!

  1. Well said, Stu. Under the circumstances, physical distancing is simply smart medical practice. Social distancing is the opposite of smart. I concur that it was simply a poor choice of wording.

    Like

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