Social Distancing and Social Distance: What’s the Difference?
–Social distancing provides a time for deeper reflection on social distance—
Health and government officials define social distancing in disaster preparedness terms such as “shelter in place” and “Safer at Home” to prevent the spread of an infectious disease such as the new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) by ordering people to stay in their residences and limit all activities outside of their homes beyond what is absolutely necessary for essential tasks such as buying food and medications.
Sociologists define social distance in terms of separatism. Characteristics that lead to social distance or separatism include economic class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, politics, and religion.
As we practice social distancing as a means to prevent the spread of COVID-19, our acts of social distancing are a shared experience even though they are practiced apart from one another. Acts of social distance, however, are also practiced apart from others but often limit or even prevent shared experiences with others outside of one’s class, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.
A time for deeper reflection
Social distancing provides opportunities for deeper reflection on social distance that we should embrace.
Social distancing as the result of the pandemic has likely stirred up feelings of isolation because of missing our accustomed routines that involve our family, friends, co-workers, classes, and perhaps acquaintances and even strangers that have grown familiar to us while walking and driving. The pandemic has broken our customary contentment.
While social distancing, we likely feel helpless trying to determine what comes next. We are uncertain about how long the pandemic will last—weeks or months or even longer. We may find ourselves longing for the comfort of a hug or warm embrace from others.
A need for deeper reflection
Social distance from others as the result of one’s economic class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, politics, or religion can be very limiting upon deeper reflection, especially if you cannot long for a hug or warm embrace from someone seemingly different from yourself.
The hug or warm embrace may reveal that the one who seemingly is different from yourself is not so different than yourself. The physical contact may even shatter some on-going or concluding thought or opinion about the person’s “difference.”
When the need for social distancing is over, may you not just yearn for the hug or warm embrace of those you share characteristics such as economic class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, politics, or religion but yearn for the same from those you do not share the same characteristics.
Is there something about your economic class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, politics, or religion that separates you from others? If so, is it making it difficult for you to yearn to give a hug or warm embrace to someone who is seemingly different? Is it making it difficult for you to welcome a hug or warm embrace from someone who is seemingly different from you?
While social distancing during the pandemic, we are paradoxically connected to each other perhaps more than ever. Upon reflection, you may decide that you cannot live without some deeper connection to others seemingly different from yourself after the crisis is over and that social distance because of your economic class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, politics, or religion is something that you can live without.