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Social Distancing vs Socialization

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The goal of this blog is to address the importance of two key concepts that have a common foundation but are diametrically opposed to each other.

Socialization is the first concept I’d like to focus on.  As humans, we completely depend on social interaction. As such socialization is truly the very basis of civilization as we know it.  Over the centuries, mankind has relied on building social connections in order to not only survive, but to thrive. Countless studies on ‘happiness and humans’ continue to highlight the critical role of relationships and socialization in determining how happy we are. Ultimately, it is the meaningful relationships we form that are the true source of happiness across all generations and in every country. It is not how much money we spend or how fancy our lifestyles that bring contentment, but rather it is our ability to interact and socialize that brings the greatest satisfaction. In short, it is confirmed without question that humans need social experiences to learn how to behave, to be part of a culture and to survive.

But here is the challenge!

Just as 2020 was upon us, so too was the world-wide outbreak of the CoronaVirus (known now as COVID-19). Because it is incredibly contagious and has a higher mortality rate than typical flus and viruses that are on the scene every winter, it is bringing its own set of unprecedented challenges.

As a result of life threatening, and life changing, outbreaks around the world, the World Health Organization has deemed this to be a pandemic.

Unfortunately there is no vaccine or known cure for this virus at this time. The only way to slow down contamination is through careful personal hygiene, including consistent and continuous hand washing along with social distancing.

And this brings us to the second concept that I’d like to focus on in this blog. While socialization and social distancing share the same root word ‘social,’ one encourages a sociable attitude and the other strongly curtails social connections.

The reason for implementing social distancing (a word I had never even heard before February 2020) is that it is one of the only known ways to manage an out of control spread of infection.  The purpose of implementing social distancing is to stop or slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease (like COVID-19) by reducing the probability of contact between persons carrying the infection, and others who are not infected, so as to minimize transmitting the disease. Interestingly, social distancing is most effective under the exact circumstances that are present with COVID-19. That is, it is typically spread via coughing or sneezing; direct physical contact; or indirect physical contact which means touching a contaminated surface.

But social distancing flies in the face of the most basic need of humankind: social connections.

Given the extraordinary situation we are currently experiencing, social distancing is our best hope for curbing the disease and keeping down the death toll. So we have to find a way to get around the obstacles and maintain our humanness even when we are isolated from each other.

Socialization is important because it is how we remind ourselves that we are cared for and that we, in turn, care for others. When we are the gives and receivers of genuine concern, affection, and kindness, it feels good. It doesn’t matter if we are the providers or the recipients, the result is the same -   we feel gratified and happy.

There are several things we can do that bring the same sense of satisfaction to us that we enjoy through socialization.

Maintaining a sense of normalcy and consistency can help manage the pressure we are all experiencing. This can be done by arranging for continuous, scheduled interaction that enable us to feel a part of each other’s lives even when we are a part from each other!

These actions will help us cope with the stress and anxiety that accompanies social distancing in your personal life:

First of all, don’t forget about the good old fashion telephone. A call to a friend, even for just 15 minutes, can brighten the day for both of you. Or set a time to call, such as noon, and plan on having lunch “together” even if you are miles away.

Secondly, a quick text to start or end someone’s day that just says, “I am checking on you!” can send the message that they matter and that you care.

Third, use Facetime to enhance a traditional phone call by giving you the opportunity to feel as if you are right in the same room together, even if you are separated by miles.

Fourth, arrange for something fun together. Select a book and have a virtual book club. Check out the online author’s notes and have a great telephone discussion. You can even ‘share’ a bottle of wine and toast each other’s keen insights!

It is not only in your personal life that you are likely to feel disoriented by the lack of togetherness.  However, even in your professional life there are many ways to stay in touch, even while you are forced into a shelter-at-home or quarantine-style situation.

  • Hold daily or weekly regularly scheduled conference calls with your fellow employees, using Microsoft Teams or other technology tools that enable a group discussion. Foster a sense of “huddling” as you talk over issues and challenges just as if you are in the office together.
  • Use email to share ideas and brainstorm with the team to keep the creative juices flowing despite all the distractions.
  • Post to your social media platforms to keep others informed of what’s new and to engage in dialogue with each other.
  • Reach out to clients/customers, colleagues, industry influencers and others you do business with. This is the best time to remain in touch, to share information and resources, to make time to check on everyone, and to create a sense of community for all to enjoy.

These are just a few simple ways that we can stay close while staying safe. Knowing that we crave conversation, we need to work harder to find new ways to reach out to each other. We may not be able to schedule that long awaited breakfast meeting, or attend our favorite charity’s annual gala, but there is much that can be done to support each other.

Please share your ideas with us. What are you doing to keep your own spirits up and have a positive influence on those around you at the same time?