I had written this blog about a week ago, and am finally getting around to posting it. So much has happened over the last week, and I thought about rewriting or heavily editing it. But, instead, I am going to let it stand as it is. Perspectives, particularly now, are so very important in how we're interacting with one another. Thus I leave you to read my thoughts on the matter.
In this time with the constant media barrage, there are three “Hs” that come to my mind: hurtful, helpful and hype. As the media continues to perpetuate more hype than anything (at least to me), their continued repetition of the phrase “social distancing” had me thinking.
Now, I’m not going to get into the “should we” or “shouldn’t we” be doing this – that’s not the intention of this writing. My intent is to reframe the whole concept from social distancing to physical distancing.
I am advocating for us to shift to using physical distancing, regardless of the fact that the media continues to perpetuate this idea of us being socially distant through their constant reminders. Because in this time of uncertainty and with the increased need for connection, this is NOT the time for us to be socially distant.
Yes, there are challenges in trying to make those connections without the ability to do so physically. Especially with those who may not have the technology to video chat. However, it is time to meet that challenge and find ways. Find ways to bring your community closer to you, however far away it may seem. If you think about it and look at the words, “community” and “communication” – they have the same root.
I did a blog last November exploring the meaning of community and how it had changed in the new world of cyber connection. Who knew that I would be exploring this yet again in light of our current global situation? At that time, I looked how we’ve moved to being “connected” with others through video chats, social media interaction, texts, emails, but how we’ve lost picking up the phone and SPEAKING (vs. texting) or dropping by a neighbor’s house for an impromptu chat and how that shift felt like a bit of a loss.
In just a few short months, I’m here again contemplating this whole idea and just how much our personal communities have changed. We now give sidelong glances to someone who comes within mere feet of our space in ways we never have before. Yet, now with great agility, we can jump onto Face Time or Zoom to say hi to someone who may be thousands of miles away. We’re suddenly making more time for those in our lives because we’re not having to plan for travel time, distance, and other similar logistics in getting together physically. Yes, there may be technology hurdles, but it seems to me that we as a whole are finding ways to overcome those hurdles like never before in desperation to be with someone outside of our four walls.
Humans are mostly social creatures by nature (yes – you introverts out there may have argued this point in the past, but I’ll bet by now you’re agreeing even if to a small degree). We tend to want to be with others like us – whether it be as part of common interest groups, with those who share similar points of view on life, or - *gasp* - with our actual family members.
So, I started to think about this need to be with others in today’s “new” world in comparison to how it was done even just a couple of generations ago.
In my grandparents’ generation, how did they stay socially connected although they were separated geographically? My grandparents lived apart for several years after my grandfather emigrated from Italy to the United States leaving my grandmother behind for a period of time due to life circumstances. Yet, they managed to keep their marriage alive and be connected even though they couldn’t see each other on a little screen, much less pick up a phone to call or send a text. They had to find other ways. In those days, you did it by letter or postcard, or in emergent circumstances, you sent a telegram.
You dropped that letter or card in the mail and prayed that it was received at the other end, likely several weeks later. Then as life continued to be lived, you waited for a response to come back. Despite the waiting time, the lack of instant communication by phone or telegram, they still found a way to stay connected.
Thus, I challenge us all to be creative in how we come together in this time of physical distancing. How can you think outside the box to forge a new bond with someone? There are neighborhoods that are placing chairs several feet apart at the ends of their driveways each evening, to have dinner or happy hour “together”. There are groups doing virtual dinner parties. Most of us have heard by now about towns in Italy that had people opening windows and all singing together. Parents are getting creative with their home-bound children in finding ways for them to have play time with their friends through virtual means. My family and I were just talking about having a Zoom gathering where we watched a movie or a TV show together.
In all of this, what is the important underlying factor is to not be socially distant even though we may be physically separated. I would advocate that during this time of home isolation and self-reflection as we try to ascertain what we may need personally in all of this, that we also determine how we can reach out and touch someone. Not literally, of course, but in a way that maintains that physical space, yet creates that human connection.
When you’re thinking about that neighbor who lives alone, with whom you’ve likely exchanged only a few words of greeting in passing, maybe put a note or a bouquet of flowers on her front porch letting her know you’re thinking of her. Or, when’s the last time you sent an actual card or letter in the postal mail? I still love getting cards and letters from people in a mailbox, with a stamp, personally delivered by an actual human being. It makes my day to get that card or note. It tells me someone was thinking of me at that time.
As we navigate this new world, and really think about what community really and truly is – now, and in the future when we can physically be together again – I invite you to continue to develop new ways to forge those social bonds. Ones that will last well beyond these coming months. We can change our current languaging to say, “physical distancing” in lieu of “social distancing” and create that shift in perspective. We then come to realize that we really are not as distant as we are being led by the media to think.
And, by the way, I would love it if you decide to drop me a postcard through old-fashioned snail mail. Who knows? I just might send one back to you too.