What we are experiencing and will continue to struggle with for the foreseeable future, is what can be considered a “defining moment.” We are collectively experiencing a point in our lives when we are urged to make a pivotal decision that has the potential to fundamentally change how we interact as a society. Our individual decisions about social distancing will change us as a nation. And, this moment will have a lasting impact on our perceptions and behaviors around the world.
As of this writing, we’ve made it through the first of many more weeks of “social distancing” in the form of restrictions designed for the greater good. I’ve seen a lot of memes about parents being home with their children and the fact that spankings and prayer are back in the (home) school. It is meant to be funny, of course. We must look for light-hearted ways to make the best of a heavy situation right now.
However, I find the contrast of parents being confined at home with their “little angles,” and those who are home completely alone, as something to take note of. The statics about the suicide rate among the depressed and lonely in recent years are heartbreaking, especially among young people.
Social distancing has been evolving for some time now, especially among young people who have grown up with the internet. We just failed to recognize it for what it was. In a 2009 article entitled, “The Challenges Facing Today's Young People” by M. F. Adams, he speaks about technology being responsible for the development of “remote intimacy” in which conversations that ordinarily take place in person are now happening through texts, instant messaging, or in community spaces such as Facebook.
Since much of communication is interpreted through facial expressions and body language, today’s young adults may have placed themselves at a great disadvantage when communicating because they are not aware of the importance of unspoken communication detected only through facial expressions and body language that just doesn’t come across through texts, instant messaging, or Facebook. These subtle communications are only noticeable in personal and even then, we often miss some important cues that clarify the intent of many messages.
Though we may be physically distant, we are yet psychologically dependent. As we are in the stores, buying gas, or wherever we find ourselves, we need to look at people and really SEE them. We need to look people in the eye with compassion and understanding. We need to look people in the eye with compassion and understanding and give them a smile. We need to look people in the eye with compassion and understanding and give them a smile and pay attention to their response to our smile. And as we feel led to do so, offer a kind word, encouragement, and perhaps even offer a short prayer.
The acceptable guidance around social distancing has morphed from 250 people, to 10 people or less and maintaining a space of at least three to six feet between people, to a mandated “safe at home” policy. The goal was self-quarantining to ensure our physical well being. For some, it is imposed isolation which may hasten one’s psychological undoing. And for those among us who are depressed or lonely, how much more might they be resigned to ending it all without anyone noticing for perhaps days, or even weeks?
As a society, it is imperative that we understand how to translate a real sense of connection with far less touch that is part of knowing and being known when we are together. It may literally save lives.