Social distance is a term that has taken root in youth dictionaries in 2020. Researchers, doctors and WHO officials say social distancing can be an effective way to counter the spread of viral diseases.
What is social distance?
The Oxford Dictionary defines social distancing in this way: the practice of maintaining a certain physical distance from others or limiting access and contact between people (especially family and friends) to avoid contracting or transmitting an infectious disease, or as part of a community initiative to contain its spread ... The term also has a non-medical meaning: "the practice of maintaining a certain distance or emotional separation from another person or social group." The first use of this term to refer to a preventive measure during an epidemic was recorded in 2004 in the Detroit News and is associated with the influenza epidemic.
Does social distance work for young people in Europe?
The experience of past epidemics, in particular the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, shows that social distance as a preventive measure works. Research proves this with major epidemics. When it comes to COVID-19, researchers confirm the effectiveness of social distance. Researchers from Columbia University also speak about this. After analyzing the situation in New York, they found that when the government recommended closing schools and restaurants, the number of new cases began to decline. According to scientists, this suggests that social distancing works.
Today, social distancing remains a simple and affordable method to slow the spread of the virus and prevent overloading our health care system in Europe. However, researchers pay attention to the inner side of the issue of social distancing: what will be the potential social and psychological consequences of maintaining long-term self-isolation and social distance?
What role does social distance play in everyday life?
This is actually a normal defensive reaction to interactions in a social context. For us young people, as beings who strive for both unity and individuation at the same time, this is an attempt to separate, to feel autonomy, to reflect on our own boundaries, to defend our boundaries. Excluding the pandemic factor, social distancing can mean a certain choice: "I choose to be alone now," "I want to protect myself from external influences," "I want to be alone." But the other pole here can be increased pathological social anxiety, when a person is afraid to go out to people, to establish connections. Then you need to contact a specialist if it brings certain life discomfort, first of all to the person himself.
How does social distance affect us in quarantine?
During quarantine, social distancing is an imposed situation where volunteers are introduced to it as a rule, rather than a personal choice. When this is an externally justified requirement, we feel a certain pressure, so various collisions can occur. And here everything already depends on the type of personality, general social moods or the information field in which a person is.
For example, aggression may increase. There are many cases when more acute conflicts, shouting or even domestic violence began in the family. People feel a certain threat to their borders and try to defend them in such not very adequate ways. When we are socially distant from the wider world and remain in a closed space with loved ones, we really need to change our environment in some way. This is a "picture change" effect. If these changes do not occur, the intrapersonal conflict intensifies. A person feels cornered, and this energy must be put somewhere. On the other hand, depressive states can also be observed: a lowered emotional background, when apathy occurs, there is no strength to do something, to collect. Energy is directed not towards resolving this conflict, but in the other direction.
Outbursts of aggression affect our relationships with others: they deteriorate and may even break. When a person starts to panic, there are two ways: the environment may not understand or, on the contrary, support - and then there is a chance to find like-minded people and calm yourself down a little. During depressive states, people can also either support or withdraw. It all depends on the individual manifestations.
How can volunteers restore social contact during the gradual exit from quarantine?
- First, there is no need to rush. This is a new stage. And like any new stage, it requires a period of adaptation: to look, listen, "sniff" what is happening around. Do not go into bodily contact immediately, because there are still threats. Check how comfortable it is to touch, what distance is normal for inner sensations.
- Secondly, you need to listen to each other and take into account the desires of partners, hear each other's desires regarding the form and strategy of your communication.
- The third step: move on to action - direct communication. Of course, keeping in mind the personal safety equipment. Since no one knows how long the pandemic will last, we must learn quickly and adapt to the new environment. Learning to choose who is safe for us, with whom we can be closer, and with whom we can keep our distance. At this stage, you need to be responsible, taking care of your own safety and the safety of our communication partners.