“Social Distancing” is the wrong term

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Aside from the criss-crossed and messy messages for which so many governments are being criticized in their handling of the Coronavirus Covid-19 (CV) crisis, in “social distancing,” it is my opinion that we have been using the wrong term to deal with the situation. Among the casualties of this CV pandemic will be a lot of collateral damage, including those around business failures and layoffs, illnesses that go untreated and exacerbated mental health. In this vein and for these times, we should break the term, “Social Distancing” into two separate ideas: Social & Distancing. Practice Social Connection & Physical Distancing.

  • Social Connection => Reach out and make connections with people in meaningful ways. Thanks to an array of communication tools at our disposal, go for social proximity, sharing curated and fact-checked information as well as solace and good cheer. It’s definitively time to flex your empathic muscle. Focus the conversation on that which matters. Discuss novels, poetry and music. Play games. Connect.
  • Physical Distancing => Take sensible precautions to stay clear of others by practising physical or body distancing, whereby we respect the virus’ ability to spread. Go for runs and walks outside by all means, attending to the guidelines. Don’t look at others (e.g. those wearing or not wearing masks) as pariahs. There’s enough feeling of loneliness as it is. That said, I do feel that wearing a mask is the right thing to do for everyone. Here’s why: on top of stopping outgoing germs for those who are sick, if you are not sick, it will remind you not to touch your face (at least your mouth and nose) with your fingers, a habit that is decidedly hard to kick since, on average, we touch our faces over 15 times per hour.

Fear is the reigning sentiment, leading people and companies to react in rather extraordinary ways. Some great and others less than good. I’ve written up some guidelines who companies should consider their communications in this time of crisis. My commitment to my readership here is to lead by example and to make sure that we elevate the debate. As Sam Villa, my mentor from my days at Redken told me: “Change is for sure, growth is the option.”

How are we (and I include myself) to grow from this? Here’s my list:

  • By practising empathy with those nearest you, furthest from you and with strangers.
  • By observing rather than judging.
  • Checking in on our own ego and trigger points.
  • Being fair and firm in your fact-checking.
  • Spending time on figuring out what’s important to you and your broader community.

We need to be attentive to the fact that just because we aren’t greeting one another as we used to or holding doors or gates open as a courtesy for the person behind us, we must maintain our civility toward others — including strangers — and, more pressingly, make sure to connect with what matters. At last, being connected means also being tethered both socially and with digital (i.e. social) tools.

2 Comments, RSS

  1. […] With an estimated third of the planet’s population under some form of restriction (up to lockdown), mostly in the First World, many people are looking at the option of podcasting. It’s a veritable podrush! And it makes sense given that a podcast is almost exactly “social distancing” in that it allows for asynchronized and personable communications at a distance via the Internet. As I like to say, we ought to be practising not social distancing, but social proximity & physical distancing. […]

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