Social Distancing?

I am online a lot more now. Since the restrictions brought on by this novel corona virus began, I am texting and emailing and Facetiming and Zooming and Doxying most of the day every day. I am communicating professionally, intellectually and socially with at least 14 to 18 people daily on electronic platforms exclusively. In the past it was only with four or five individuals that I would directly interact with daily through social media. The others I would interact with would be within physical contact space, three to four or at most five feet apart. If I was giving a lecture there might be many more people in the room that I would interact with many crowding around after the lecture. Still, daily the bulk of my contact with others would always be within physical proximity. There were never more than a handful of people day-to-day that I would use digital media with.

Telehealth is booming even though at this point in the US there are still certain restrictions limiting the ways we are permitted to connect with our patients via digital platforms. I have patients that call me directly from their unsecured cell phones or use FaceTime to connect with me. I am hopeful that the lawmakers responsible for drafting the legislation governing the use of Teletherapy take into account just how adversely anxiety and depressive disorders are impacted by the corona virus restrictions. They need easier ways to communicate with their therapists not old restrictions. Just this morning a dermatologist was boasting that Telehealth has freed her up to have patients take pictures of their skin conditions, email them to her, and she could diagnose from a distance. I guess a skin condition may be less confidential an issue than a psychological one. I am not sure I agree but I digress.

While I may be more engaged socially with people now via digital media there are ways that I do interact physically since Covid19 arrived. The gym I go to is closed so for exercise I walk the streets and from a distance we greet one another say hello to neighbors and friends who are also out walking and comment “Gee this situation is weird” and “Has there ever been anything like this, ever?”

A neighbor dropped by yesterday. We stood outside six to seven feet apart and spoke about how quiet the streets are and how Pesach will be lonely without family joining together and how those who traditionally travel to destinations for Passover will have to learn how to make the holiday at home and so on. The neighbor who had asked if she could use one of our bedrooms to dorm relatives who would be coming to her for Pesach week popped her head out the front door of her home to thank us again and tell us that they would not be coming. We also spoke about our relative who is very much pregnant, works in healthcare and is now in quarantine, not because she was exposed to the Covid19 virus at work but she attended parshat zachor at her shul and one of the congregants has been diagnosed with the virus.
All of this is social interacting. Our trip to Israel in April to see relatives, attend a Bar Mitzvah and do some consultation has been put on ice. Hopefully we will be able to go in July as planned. We are in touch with everyone there via the internet. I came across a terrific idea for interacting with neighbors socially (https://www.timesofisrael.com/stuck-at-home-jerusalem-neighbors-join-in-balcony-sing-a-long/) and maybe I will take out a guitar in the street and do the same.

All of this, neighbors, friends, even strangers in the street, even though all at a distance, online or six and more feet apart, is social interaction! So why is everyone talking about SOCIAL distancing. None of this is social distance – it’s just the opposite! We are physically distanced now but thanks to social media we are socially engaged. For our psychological well-being we must continue to engage socially. Isolation is dangerous and destructive to our mental and even physical health. So here is to social interaction. Just keep it physically distant and don’t spread those germs.

About the Author
Dr Michael Salamon ,a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is a 2018 APA Presidential Citation Awardee for his 'transformative work in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse". He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications) and "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America). His newest book is called "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."
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