Ever since COVID-19 hijacked the news cycle, our lives, and our daily conversations (is it novelty? Is it a giant, shared relief that we all have this collective, deeply felt human struggle now…?), the words “social distancing” , “self-isolation”, and “self-quarantine” (chiefly “social distance” and “quarantine”) have been thrown about, splattered among headlines, and prescribed by the experts. It was a very real concern, the way to flatten the curve, the surest way to a quick return to normalcy.
And so we throw the words around in our Instagram posts, our daily fitness live-streams, our virtual family reunions, perhaps unaware of the weight they carry. I saw some others point this out, though, and wanted to look at it myself.
“Social-ness”, is intrinsic to being human. Merriam Webster has the word tied to our institutions, our society, and our ability to be in relationship with others:
There is scant, if at all, mention of space. Of distance.
Rather, it’s about welfare, relationship, organization… mutual benefit, even. In times like these, as we watch the workforce crumble, our institutions come to a screeching halt, our lives uprooted, and our capacity for solitude stretched and tested– it’s these things that remain paramount: welfare, relationship, organization, & mutual benefit.
I came across 3 alternatives, 3 suggested replacements for the term “social distancing” (which has, seemingly invaded our cultural lexicon and shot to the top of Google searches overnight), and hope that we can use them to more accurately label our situation and what we hope to achieve; that is, to cling to that relationship and caring and interaction and mutual benefit that is so distinctly human, if only from a distance:
Physical distancing: Straightforward and literal. Physical knocks out the societal ramification and narrows it down to your kinetic sphere– your body, where it’s placed, in comparison to others. The CDC recommends six feet of distance between you and someone else.
Holy space: Encroaching into theological soothing territory. My campus minister held a virtual service today, where she talked about how it’s wild that this pandemic and all of its massive changes are happening during the season of Lent…how it’s a time of “holy pause”, and that “…if you haven’t chosen a lenten discipline, that’s okay because maybe it’s been thrust upon you” [lol]. How it’s a time of “fasting from being strong… at time of vulnerability and tenderness” and a time of “softness for the soul” as we “fast from anxiety…with radical trust in Jesus Christ, with abundance of the heart rather than the scarcity of the things.”
And then, there’s my personal favorite as of now:
Distant socializing: Again, emphasis on physical distance. We. Are. So. Fortunate to have all of this technology that enables us to get face time with our friends and relatives. I was on a FaceTime not so long ago with one of my friends and…I could just feel my mood improve, and my anxiety kind of dull to a low hum. ^___^
Staying connected is everything right now, and I hope these alternatives are something we can sub out for what the media has fed us ✌️