• Yehudit Zicklin-Sidikman

“Social Distancing” or “Physical Distancing”? Does it Make a Difference?


This conversation started the other evening, during a webinar run by Meg Stone of IMPACT Boston.


While we are being asked to refrain from socializing in almost all of the ways that we are used to, are we really being asked to be less social?


While we are being asked to refrain from socializing in almost all of the ways that we are used to, are we really being asked to be less social?

As someone sitting in quarantine (only a few more days to go!) I know that I have not been less social. My family, friends, and colleagues have done everything possible to fill my days (and nights) with conversations, discussions, story-telling, and just being “together” during this complicated time we are all wrestling with while wondering about tomorrow.


And what does “social distancing” mean for those who have been, due to their lifestyles, choices, or circumstances were already pushed out of mainstream socialization even before Covid-19?

Does this term invoke in them feelings of “You thought you were pushed out of social norms, family, community? Who are you kidding? This is only the beginning of even more distancing and even more loneliness?”


Is this the message that we are getting behind?


I can’t believe that it is.


Many of the ESD leaders in the field, myself included, are asking that we use the term “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing” because we hope that it will be less triggering for those who already feel marginalized.


More than that, it represents more accurately what we need to be doing. We need to keep physical distance, but that does not mean that we can’t stop six feet apart from each other, or yell across the street to a neighbor or passerby with whom we just want to check in on and ask, “How ya doin’? This is hard but we got this! Can I help with anything?”


We need to keep physical distance, but that does not mean that we can’t stop six feet apart from each other, or yell across the street to a neighbor or passerby with whom we just want to check in on and ask, “How ya doin’? This is hard but we got this! Can I help with anything?”

So please, if you don’t mind, can we call it “physical distancing?” For hug addicts, that is hard enough. I know, the original term, and the most popular one being used right now is “social distancing,” And maybe those who started using it just didn’t sit with it long enough to see why it might be harmful. It is not too late to make the change. Look back over the past [fill in the blank] years. There are so many terms that we have chewed over and spit out because, once we stopped to think about them, we realized that they really did leave a bad taste in our mouth.


And yes, I hope that one day soon, “physical distancing” will not be the new normal and we can go back to saying good-bye to new friends with a hug.


A girl can dream, can’t she?

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