Words Matter: Social or Physical Distance?

 

Words have meaning. Should we “socially distance” ourselves from others? Last Friday, March 20, Wil Addison joined Alexander Hamilton III on his radio show and podcast, The Hamilton Corner. He was on to discuss maintaining a Christian witness in the time of the Chinese coronavirus. One comment, in particular, caught my ear.

Wil Addison said that we are using the wrong word. We should not be putting social distance between ourselves. Instead, we should be maintaining a physical distance. Indeed, if you listen closely to the recommendations, you are being advised to maintain six feet of separation, to engage in or refrain from physical acts. So, we should absolutely be protecting each other with physical distancing.

At the same time, we know that isolation and loneliness are bad for our health, that humans are social beings. From the Creator saying it was not good for the first man to be alone, to Saint Paul urging the early Church not to neglect gathering together, the most ancient wisdom points to individuals’ need for a relationship with other humans. So, we should not use the occasion of government urging or commanding physical distancing and isolation as a rationale for retreating into a virtual bubble. Oh, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Disney are all prepared to keep you distracted with compelling content for the rest of the decade. However, their leaders, if pressed, would acknowledge the importance of real human relations.

For myself, I will try to exercise physical distancing, while maintaining social connections.

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  1. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    Exactly. Some of the folks in our over-55 community started a “5PM wave” thing, where everyone is supposed to step out of their self-imposed imprisonment, wave to their neighbors, and scurry back inside. I had to resist putting my true opinion of this on the message board or I likely would have been banned for bad thoughts and vulgar language. 

    Because the fitness center is closed, we walk 3 miles every day it’s nice and I will talk to my neighbors and other walkers anytime I damn well want to, since they’re out and about, too. Don’t worry, I won’t hug them.

    • #1
  2. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Clifford A. Brown: Wil Addison said that we are using the wrong word.

    I think everyone understands what is meant by social distancing. No one thinks they can’t talk to people on the phone or use other means to communicate remotely. Viruses are not transmitted over copper or fiber; everyone gets that. Well, maybe there are some primary cultures in remote areas of the world that don’t but they probably aren’t reading this post or listening to podcasts.

    • #2
  3. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I love this sentiment. Thank you. 

    • #3
  4. Hugh Member
    Hugh
    @Hugh

    the dog is thrilled!

    Mega walkies and the hoomans are around all the time.

    • #4
  5. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    Words do matter, not just because they contain information, but because they have a significant effect on how people think and act. I, too, have objections to the phrase “social distancing” because it encourages people to hunker down and ignore or run from their neighbors, friends, and family members. The long term consequences could lead to a bunker mentality that will turn us against each other. This would be the worst result for the future of the country.

    • #5
  6. Marythefifth Member
    Marythefifth
    @Marythefifth

    I haven’t liked the phrase because it makes me think in terms of classes. It’s silly and I can’t help it. We must keep away from THOSE people.

    • #6
  7. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Isn’t Facebook, Instagram and Twitter the epitome of “social distancing”?

    • #7
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Isn’t Facebook, Instagram and Twitter the epitome of “social distancing”?

    Not necessarily. They are certainly sold as connecting rather than distancing. 

    • #8
  9. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll
    @DavidCarroll

    While “physical distancing” may be more precise, we understand that “social distancing” refers to a change in social norms of physical distance.  The social distancing term is already too ingrained to change.

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    David Carroll (View Comment):

    While “physical distancing” may be more precise, we understand that “social distancing” refers to a change in social norms of physical distance. The social distancing term is already too ingrained to change.

    I can change, though. This is one of those rare times when I might change my use of words in response to a Ricochet complaint.  Usually when people complain about a usage that’s in common currency I don’t want to give it up because I don’t want to give up using leftist cliches against the left. But I don’t see how that applies in this case. 

    No promises, though. 

    • #10
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    David Carroll (View Comment):

    While “physical distancing” may be more precise, we understand that “social distancing” refers to a change in social norms of physical distance. The social distancing term is already too ingrained to change.

    But who is “we” and has there not been a longer term concern about people isolating themselves in scenes, away from real human interaction?

    • #11
  12. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret
    @CarolJoy

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    David Carroll (View Comment):

    While “physical distancing” may be more precise, we understand that “social distancing” refers to a change in social norms of physical distance. The social distancing term is already too ingrained to change.

    But who is “we” and has there not been a longer term concern about people isolating themselves in scenes, away from real human interaction?

    I actually think that the entire notion of separating ourselves away from each other is exactly the Orwellian dystopian nightmare that The Powers That Be have  planned out for us.

    The fact that starting on April 1st thru to the 10th, we in Lake County Calif will not have  any ability to even go to the store is mind blowing to me.

    Today this guy was out surfing in Redondo Beach. Three cops stood at the ready to arrest or hassle him when he came into shore. (If surfing by yourself is not a social distancing activity, what would be?)

    And then what seems to be the far  worst part of it is how people are embracing it. Two of my friends were on a FB local chit chat group and when two of us said to the third something to the effect of “I sure feel like breakin’ the rules to come and see you,” people jumped all over us. You’d have thought our sentiment about the need to be together as friends was going to destroy the entire society.

    • #12
  13. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    The fact that starting on April 1st thru to the 10th, we in Lake County Calif will not have any ability to even go to the store is mind blowing to me.

    @caroljoy, is your county banning trips to grocery stores/pharmacies?

     

    • #13
  14. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret
    @CarolJoy

    Rodin (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    The fact that starting on April 1st thru to the 10th, we in Lake County Calif will not have any ability to even go to the store is mind blowing to me.

    @caroljoy, is your county banning trips to grocery stores/pharmacies?

     

    Grocery stores will be locked and closed on Apr 1st. I haven’t paid attention to pharmacies as I take one baby aspirin a day, and my husband’s two meds are stocked up for at least two to three months.

    Lake County being very rural, a lot of people are quite cynical about the need to do  this. Farmers get the short end of the stick in every political situation. Under Obama, 100,000 small time dairy farmers went under, as the way Geithner set up the economy, they could not get loans while they still needed to pay taxes on their earnings of 2007 and 2008.

    The big corporate dairies swooped in and took over the small dairies. Often the dairies were then converted to vineyards. This resulted in a loss of habitat for every type of critter you can think of. Deer, skunks, beaver, possums, fox, coyote, cougar, the occasional bear, skinks, snakes, frogs, toads,  end up as road kill when the new models of 20,000 acre Uber vineyards go in. Not even birds land in these fields. The meadow lark is now an endangered species in our neck of the woods. Yet Obama is considered “the great environmentalist.”

    As a result of rural folks not caring for the numbers that come from bureaucrats, I can sneak off with people who work at various places. We will stand in a deserted aisle and  we tell jokes about the fact that the nation is now shut down. Often re-hashing a particularly funny bit from Gutfield makes our day.

    • #14
  15. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret
    @CarolJoy

    Mike Rapkoch (View Comment):

    Words do matter, not just because they contain information, but because they have a significant effect on how people think and act. I, too, have objections to the phrase “social distancing” because it encourages people to hunker down and ignore or run from their neighbors, friends, and family members. The long term consequences could lead to a bunker mentality that will turn us against each other. This would be the worst result for the future of the country.

    But if this national trauma rids the world of President Trump, it will be all for the good. (Or so people like Bill Maher would have us believe.)

    • #15
  16. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    Grocery stores will be locked and closed on Apr 1st.

    @caroljoy, this seems so extraordinary that I have been trying to pull up the official announcement. The public health page for the County and COVID-19 makes no mention of it.

    Lake County is 1 of only 12 counties in the state reporting 0 cases of COVID-19. So what is going on?!

    • #16
  17. I. M. Fine Coolidge
    I. M. Fine
    @IMFine

    Not to turn all academic and stuffy (I repeat myself), but the term “social distance” is a common term in the study of proxemics, the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behavior, communication and social interaction. There are four accepted categories/zones that describe the relative distance between people: intimate distance (embracing, touching, etc.) is 1 inch – 18 inches; personal distance (interactions among friends and family) is 1.5 – 4 feet; social distance (interactions among acquaintances) is 4 – 12 feet; and public distance (public speaking) is over 12 feet. These terms are used all the time in communication studies. I suspect that’s where “social distance” came from. 

    And perhaps because it came from academia is reason enough to scrap it and go with something else.  Or not.

    Okay. I’ll go back in my cave. 

    • #17
  18. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    I. M. Fine (View Comment):

    Not to turn all academic and stuffy (I repeat myself), but the term “social distance” is a common term in the study of proxemics, the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behavior, communication and social interaction. There are four accepted categories/zones that describe the relative distance between people: intimate distance (embracing, touching, etc.) is 1 inch – 18 inches; personal distance (interactions among friends and family) is 1.5 – 4 feet; social distance (interactions among acquaintances) is 4 – 12 feet; and public distance (public speaking) is over 12 feet. These terms are used all the time in communication studies. I suspect that’s where “social distance” came from.

    And perhaps because it came from academia is reason enough to scrap it and go with something else. Or not.

    Okay. I’ll go back in my cave.

    All true. And

    • #18
  19. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret
    @CarolJoy

    Rodin (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    Grocery stores will be locked and closed on Apr 1st.

    @caroljoy, this seems so extraordinary that I have been trying to pull up the official announcement. The public health page for the County and COVID-19 makes no mention of it.

    Lake County is 1 of only 12 counties in the state reporting 0 cases of COVID-19. So what is going on?!

    The actual order comes from the Sheriff’s Department, because after all, when you think about health, don’t you immediately think “Sheriff.”

    It can be found here: http://www.lakesheriff.com/Assets/Sheriff+Site/docs/ShelterinPlaceFAQEnglish.pdf

    However it may be I was misinformed that the grocery stores will close on April 1st. I cannot find it anywhere, and that is a big relief.

    • #19
  20. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret
    @CarolJoy

    Rodin (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    Grocery stores will be locked and closed on Apr 1st.

    @caroljoy, this seems so extraordinary that I have been trying to pull up the official announcement. The public health page for the County and COVID-19 makes no mention of it.

    Lake County is 1 of only 12 counties in the state reporting 0 cases of COVID-19. So what is going on?!

    No matter what, 2020 just can’t get worse, can it?

     

    • #20
  21. Tedley Member
    Tedley
    @Tedley

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    Grocery stores will be locked and closed on Apr 1st.

    @caroljoy, this seems so extraordinary that I have been trying to pull up the official announcement. The public health page for the County and COVID-19 makes no mention of it.

    Lake County is 1 of only 12 counties in the state reporting 0 cases of COVID-19. So what is going on?!

    No matter what, 2020 just can’t get worse, can it?

     

    Okay, so beaches will be off limit, too.  Too bad the bird will have missed the really choice material available during spring break….

    • #21