Written by: Roni Horak, RSI Clinical Director for Behavioral Health and Counseling Services
The language and the negative lens we sometimes use to view things have become increasingly bothersome to me. The words we use impact how we interpret the information that is coming to us. I worry that some of the terms I have been hearing more of recently could lead to increased anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation.
Social Distancing: In the context of health and safety, “social distancing” means to physically stay six feet or more from others to limit the spread of infection. Here, “distancing” is used to describe physical space. However, we know now more than ever that we can remain social without sharing a physical space. We could think of “social distancing” as physical safety or our safety bubble.
Social Isolation: This is another term that is often used when talking about safety measures. However, we know that people are actually using social media like Facebook, video conferencing like Zoom and Skype, TikTok, YouTube and a variety of social tools to stay connected. There is no need to isolate completely. We do, however, have to find a way to connect differently. I’ve heard some people say that they actually feel closer to others now. People have reconnected, mended fences. I prefer to use the term “social reconnection.”
There are a variety of new words being used during this time. We may not always choose the best way to describe or influence during a crisis, but we can reframe our understanding of these words without losing their meaning and importance. At times of crisis, it is natural to experience a variety of emotions from one moment to the next. It is my hope that after the dust settles we see this experience for what it is and then put things into a healthy perspective.
Remember that these words are used out of necessity, to be sure we share a common understanding of the world around us at this moment in time. However, there are ways we can take these ideas and look at them more positively without losing the importance of their meaning and our shared mission for safety.