Social Distancing Doesn’t Have to Mean Social Isolation


Social distancing is in full swing. People are staying in their homes, isolated from the outside world to prevent the unmitigated spread of COVID-19. It’s a jarring situation for many, but it’s what needs to be done to prevent this dangerous pandemic from picking up steam.

Social distancing affects people differently. Some people find the solitude freeing and welcome it. Introverts and homebodies are much more comfortable being on lockdown, and they’re familiar with different ways to keep themselves occupied and positive at a time when social interaction is limited.

Socialites and extroverts may not be having such a good time. These people need interaction to function and have a tendency to feel displaced when they can’t be around others. Isolation is hard on them, causing everything from cabin fever to depression. These individuals thrive on being around other people and right now, it’s the one thing they can’t do!

No matter what type of person you are, it’s important to realize that social distancing and social isolation aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re very different concepts!

Social distancing vs. social isolation

Social distancing is a physical concept. People need to stay six feet away from others to mitigate their exposure to germs and viruses. This is important for reducing the spread of COVID-19 and flattening the curve.

Social isolation is a social concept. It means not communicating with other people in any way, even despite not being around them. It’s something you might do if you’re going through a deep introspection or doing some soul-searching.

Distinguishing social distancing vs. isolation is important, because it enlightens us to the many ways we can communicate with people outside of face-to-face interaction. Just because you can’t sit next to your friend in a bar or hang out with your family at the beach doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with them! Distancing vs. isolation.

Keeping up communication

There are more ways than you think to communicate with people, even when everyone is locked in their homes, unable to venture into the outside world! No, we’re not talking about sending up smoke signals or releasing homing pigeons. Take a look at how technology has evolved the way we communicate with people, and how it’s keeping people connected when they can’t be face-to-face.

  • Phone calls aren’t novel—we’ve been calling people for over 100 years! People seem to forget the smartphone in their pocket can actually make calls. Call up your friend or family member for a quick chat and let them know you’re thinking about them. It doesn’t have to be long—just hearing another person’s voice is a great pick-me-up.
  • Video chat is the next best thing for seeing people when you can’t be near them. FaceTime and other video chat apps come stock on most smartphones, and are easy for anyone to use—even elderly relatives! Don’t forget about Facebook’s Portal or Amazon’s Echo Show.
  • Texts are a quick way to reach out and let someone know you care. Send a quick “I hope you’re doing well” text to someone you miss and strike up a conversation with them. Even if it’s not a deep conversation, your bond with that person will grow. They’ll know you’re thinking of them and they’ll return the sentiment.
  • Videogames get a bad rap for communication, because people are known to trash talk online. But you’d be surprised at the meaningful, positive conversations you can have with total strangers as you enjoy a game together. This type of communication creates empathy—especially talking with someone you’re not likely to ever meet in person.
  • Write a letter to someone and experience the original low-tech way of letting someone know you’re thinking about them! People still get mail in the middle of a pandemic. Imagine the smile on their face when they get a letter from you—something other than junk mail. And, imagine the warmth in your heart when you get one back!
  • Social media is an important facet of online communication with people. Sharing a few memes or commenting on status updates gives you a chance to collectively participate with people online. It’s a way for people to keep up conversation, inside jokes and general social interaction. Most of all, it helps you feel connected in a meaningful way.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, too. You can send an email, have a video chat happy hour, participate in an online scavenger hunt—the list of ways to communicate and socially engage others is virtually limitless today!

We might have to socially distance ourselves from others, but we don’t have to isolate. We shouldn’t isolate. We need people and human support systems now more than ever. Getting through this pandemic, staying positive and maintaining our sanity all depend on the communication we have with each other. Even a little communication can go a long way.

Abhishek Chauhan

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