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“Social Distancing” is the Wrong Phrase

At a time when so many of us are feeling isolated with our stress, the term “social distancing” feels like a slap in the face. We are longing for physical hugs, not virtual ones; in-person meetups, not virtual ones (although I bow down to technology allowing for virtual meetings right now). It’s an unsettling time, […]

At a time when so many of us are feeling isolated with our stress, the term “social distancing” feels like a slap in the face. We are longing for physical hugs, not virtual ones; in-person meetups, not virtual ones (although I bow down to technology allowing for virtual meetings right now).

It’s an unsettling time, obviously. In addition to the actual virus, we are struggling to figure out how to adapt to many complicated situations in real-time. At the nonprofit MEDIAGIRLS that I founded, like a whole lot of places, we had to shut down our spring semester of programming. Some of our college volunteers are still trying to figure out what to do and where to go with their campuses closing. As a parent, I’m waiting to hear each day if my child’s school will offer any kind of virtual learning. I’m thinking about my mother-in-law and stepdad, both in their 80s and hoping they are being safe.

Every person is dealing with stresses around this virus and trying to make challenging decisions. All of us. And I very much am thinking about millions of people, far more vulnerable than me, making choices far more difficult. Perhaps they’re not getting to make choices at all.

When life goes into chaos, one of the most important decisions we can make is how we treat each other. Do we give dirty looks to the person at the grocery store who sneezes or coughs? Do we admonish someone we love for hugging a friend without thinking about the virus? Do we try to calm our anxiety by judging the way others are handling their own anxiety?

The media keeps throwing out the phrase “social distancing,” which makes me cringe. Physical distancing is necessary to avoid spreading the germs; I know that by “social distancing,” experts mean not getting too physically close to one another, especially in crowded places. But what we desperately need is social connecting. We need to take care of each other – and I mean on a global scope.

Let’s use our media to care for ourselves and each other.

How? For one, we have to slip out of fear-mode and come back to the present so we can stay grounded. Here is something I posted yesterday on my private Facebook page, which you may or may not find helpful. It is based on words of wisdom I heard from Martha Beck, a best-selling author, life coach, and speaker:

PSA: Very important that we all try to stay present right now. All of fear is based on the future, and therefore impossible to cope with. It’s not here. We are only equipped to cope with NOW. Look around you right now. You okay at this moment? Great. Take a few deep breaths. Rinse, lather, repeat and don’t re-freak yourself out with the headlines. The world needs connection, empathy, and calm. And so do each of us.

At our nonprofit, we are all about teaching girls and young women how to harness the power of social media to lift one another up. When you think about what you’ve posted in the last few days, is the content helping your followers? Is it inspirational? Empowering? Positive? Kind?

It’s possible you have gotten caught in the sticky web of fear, and been posting scary headlines or unleashing your anxiety with angry and/or judgmental posts. If that’s true, you’re far from alone. You can also correct it. I ask that moving forward, you – we – all take some deep breaths and really consider what media content we are putting into the world. Let’s post with open hearts and clear intentions. This is a good time to check in with our kids – girls and boys – to ask them what type of content they are posting and whether it’s nourishing or stressing others.

Let’s get back to social connecting. For all we can’t control right now, this is something we can absolutely can.

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