Social distance: what it really means


Story by Meridian Pearson, Reporter

Photo courtesy Unsplash

so·cial dis·tance
The perceived or desired degree of remoteness between a member of one social group and the members of another, as evidenced in the level of intimacy tolerated between them.
The idea of social distancing has always felt very (ironically) distant to me. The only way I understood it was in psychology class, while speaking about perceived and voluntary social distancing between large social groups. Now that social distancing is not only personal but required, things have been feeling very off. Small groups of people— families, couples, sometimes a singular person— are staying six feet away from the other, whether because it’s state-mandated or out of fear. As an ambivert (half extrovert, half introvert), it took a while for this to hit me.
I planned on a spring break at home. I wasn’t going anywhere, and that was fine by me! After running around during the first half of the semester, I was ready to fully seclude myself in my house. I was ready for no work, no traveling, just good food and great television. What I wasn’t ready for was the pandemic.
I’m not sure if anyone can truly be ready for something like this; Well-equipped, sure, but never ready. During the first half of school breaks, I’m so relieved to have no homework that I don’t miss school at all. The last half consists mainly of texting friends and longing to be back on campus. I was just starting to miss school again when Aquinas gave us the news that classes would be online until the end of April. Now that classes are online for the rest of the semester, it feels so real. I won’t be able to see anyone from AQ until August, and I may never see my senior friends again. I haven’t left the house beyond my porch in four weeks.
Social distancing in itself facilitates fear and animosity. Now that it’s being used everywhere, (and for good reason) it makes us fear and hate COVID-19 even more. Everyone I know is getting restless. As someone living with mental illness, I’m feeling even more negative effects in response. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that people need people. Human contact is everything, whether you’re an introvert, ambivert, or extrovert. We’re just not built to be solitary. While I’m not solitary at the moment, being around the same three people can also be exhausting. In “normal” life, I have many more people that I am in constant contact with. To be completely without that, with no real warning, is a huge loss.
The hardest part about social distancing at this juncture is the muted contact. I’m so thankful for the advancement of technology, and there’s no doubt we’re much better off in this pandemic that we would have been fifty years ago, but video calls just feel like a cheap knockoff of in-person conversation.
My thoughts on social distancing as a whole are that it’s extremely important in keeping us safe but it’s certainly not beneficial mentally. I’m worried that this pandemic will have lasting effects—not just physically, but mentally and socially. Staying connected is critical right now, even if the connections are less tangible than before, as well as focusing on self care and fresh air. It’s time to grasp onto anything we can.

Categories: Opinion, The Saint

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