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I've had enough of "social distancing"...

Language has power and labelling is so very important. As such, I want to know who came up with the term “social distancing”?

Take a step back a month ago and had any of you ever heard of this expression?

Nope, me neither.

This term sits very uncomfortably with me. As I see it, it’s a complete misnomer.

Yes, we have to keep our distance from other people.

Yes, our usual methods of socialising have been binned off indefinitely.

Yes, we will be absent from all the parties and social engagements previously planned.

But are we actually “socially distant”?

I seem to be on more regular speaking terms with members of my immediate family, have joined more group chats and fired up my Zoom account more than I have at any other time in my life. Jesus, my phone is confused with me actually making phone calls. To actual people.

Yoga classes have moved online, gigs and theatre shows are a daily occurrence on the internet and I feel like I’m now best friends with Joe Wicks (after a shaky start when I thought he was trying to kill me with squats). My own drumming practice happened on a conference call last week. Technology is bringing our lives together when we can’t be together.

We may have to stay physically distant, but I think the physical isolation is making us more social than we’ve been in a long time. It’s not even just on social media and via technology. It’s spreading as fast as the virus in the real world too. Take a walk down any suburban street (on your allocated daily exercise outing of course) and you’ll see signs of social unification everywhere.

There are children’s hand drawn rainbows in windows, positive chalk messages on pavements and people everywhere are giving their thanks to the NHS and other key services. You only have to lean out your window at 8pm on a Thursday night to hear the raucous celebration of thanks from every corner of the land. On my street, neighbours who didn’t know each other’s names were cheering together and banging pots and pans together (but separately I hasten to add) in glorious community spirit. And my street is far from being an exception.

Communities are finding themselves again

This is not just happening at that one time either. Communities have been mobilised into action. Groups have been set up, flyers have been posted through doors to check on vulnerable neighbours, strategies have been implemented to monitor if people require support, delivery companies are stepping up to those in need. I’ve even seen poems posted on lampposts to keep people’s spirits up in these trying times.

It even seems I’ve heightened the positivity in my interactions with people when the situation arises. I waved like a kid at a funfair at my postman through the window yesterday. Then I thanked the woman at the supermarket for being there and providing me with pasta so fervently that I was worried she’d get a restraining order on me.

“Social distancing” is a misleading reflection of the action happening all over the world. We should reclaim the naming of this crusade and rename it: “social unity from afar”.

Not as catchy, but certainly a more fitting label. Or maybe "distantly socialising"? Always open to other suggestions!

Here are five of my favourite examples of “distantly socialising”:

1) Local support groups and community-based collectives offering advice and practical solutions locally can be found here.

2) Some of the best community dancing on the street. What are you doing with your neighbours?

3) My friend and yours, Joe Wicks keeping (getting) us fit and unified in our hatred of squats whilst giving ‘shout outs’ every morning.

4) So:write Women is a Southampton based monthly writing group for women. We have been meeting online as of late, as is the fashion, and it’s a supportive, creative family you can join.

5) Lots of musicians are doing various fundraising shows from home to support independent live music venues and their staff while they are closed. Frank Turner is doing a show every week. You are only asked to donate if you’re able to, but everyone is included in the communal singing. Last week Frank supported The Joiners Arms in Southampton and this week was the turn of Winchester's The Railway Inn.

Where have you seen beautiful acts of distantly socialising? Let’s spread some good news where we can.


Current Affairs Editor, Katie Isham

Katie Isham is a writer, teacher, drummer and mild adventurer. She loves cakes, dogs and her own company, especially when near the sea. Whenever she needs to escape from reality, she tries to ride her bike or listen to Springsteen. She is powered by sarcasm and a need to smash the demon lizard patriarchy. Katie believes kindness is a superpower. 

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