How to Stay Social While Social Distancing

How to Stay Social While Social Distancing | Dr. Ali Ghahary

In a matter of weeks, the lives of Canadians and of those all around the world have changed quite drastically due to the spread of COVID-19. Hanging out with friends, going to the movies, to the park, beaches, or even going grocery shopping were once things we never really thought twice about – we simply went about our daily lives. But we can no longer do that. Now, we have to take extra precautions with almost every move we make, and this can be quite a shock to the system for some. After all, we’re social beings by nature. We thrive on having that social connection with others – and when it’s taken away, we’re not quite sure what to do. That being said, while social distancing is one of the most important aspects in preventing yourself and those around you from developing this highly contagious virus (as recommended by British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry), it’s also important to realize that social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. The only instance where we would have to completely isolate ourselves and have stricter measures put in place is if the measures of social distancing that are in place now weren’t being followed – but by supporting our health officials and adhering to their advice, we can ultimately flatten the curve and get back to living our normal lives. In the meantime, it’s important to not only know the difference between social distancing and isolation, but also important to find ways to remain social with your inner circle even though you might not necessarily get to see them face to face, or as often as you’d like, or in settings you’re normally used to.

As mentioned, social distancing does not mean social isolation. When you isolate yourself, you’re cut off from humanity entirely. When you’re social distancing, however, you’re still able to get out and about, but in a reduced capacity. The point of social distancing is that you should be keeping your distance. For example, if you’re out for a walk or talking with a neighbour, family member or a friend, you should stand at least 6 feet (or 2 metres) away from each other. While it might seem a bit strange at first, keeping this particular distance is what’s considered the safest way against transmitting this disease. Furthermore, social distancing also means that you should not be congregating in large groups, as the larger the group is, the higher the likelihood of spreading this disease amongst yourselves, which then ultimately puts others you’ve been in contact with at risk, too. It can be a vicious (and life-threatening) cycle. If you’re isolating, you’re likely doing so for one or many different reasons. You may be considered high risk for COVID-19 (such as having underlying health conditions, like asthma or COPD), you may have mild symptoms of COVID-19, or you may have been exposed to someone who is either symptomatic or confirmed to have the virus. Whatever the case may be, and whether you’re utilizing the practice of social distancing or isolation, there are still ways to stay connected.

1. Social Media
The first recognized social media site was started back in 1997, with many others following soon thereafter (with the likes of Twitter and Facebook being the most popular.) These social media platforms were designed for the sole purpose of socializing – and while a global pandemic probably wasn’t what their creators had in mind when coming up with these sites, they have seen a surge in use over the last few weeks as a way for people to not only stay connected to each other, but to share their stories of social distancing and self-isolation and use it as a tool to utilize the importance of this message.

2. E-mails/Letters
If you’re not a fan of social media or just don’t find yourself using it as a way to connect with people all that often, another great way to keep connected with people online is by sending e-mails. While many social media sites only allow a certain amount of characters to be sent at a time, an e-mail can be as lengthy as you want. If you prefer to avoid the internet all together, then you can go the old-school route by sending letters in the mail. Sometimes getting a handwritten letter feels more personal than an e-mail or a tweet – however, keep in mind that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, mail might be a bit slower than usual as getting to its intendent recipient – so if you are planning on communicating with people this way, try to be patient. Also bear in mind that there may come a time where postal services are suspended for a brief period, though nothing has been announced yet in that regard.

3. Call/Text
If you’re neither a fan of social media or sending letters, then picking up the phone and calling someone is the next best thing. In fact, it’s encouraged. Sometimes hearing another voice on the other end can help you feel less alone and isolated, and allows you to realize that you’re not alone. This can be particularly helpful for those struggling with anxiety or depression during this time. Being supportive and/or having that support can be a great feeling.

While these are just a few ways that you can connect with others, there are also many others ways of socializing – such as signing up for an online class, having virtual movie watch parties, and more. If you’re someone who finds yourself struggling with distancing or isolation, and find that you’re noticing an increase in anxiety, then please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources available online that can help get you through this. Or, you can call your local mental health support line. In British Columbia, this number is 310-6789.