We may be in the midst of enforced social distancing, but social media has quietly conditioned us for it for quite some time. So, why the pushback?
The old version of The Twilight Zone had this episode about a guy who just wanted to be left alone to read. Eventually, he was the last man on earth, left alone, and happy. But the minute he sits down to read, his reading glasses break. This was a parable about the dangers of misanthropy. A ‘be careful what you wish for’ kind of thing.
Today, we’re in a Twilight Zone of our own. Through circumstances beyond our control, we’ve been forced indoors, into our own little worlds, removed from everyone else. And we’re adapting to it, but not without some measure of complaint being aired online.
So, how does current demand for social distancing relate to social media, and how are the two connected?
I don’t think I’m the only one who’s really curious about this, or who’s asked what if there is some form of connection between the two. We desire connection, but we want it at a distance. We want to sit at the other end of a device and talk, rather than just talk.
We want to connect because it’s human nature to do so.
But, thanks to how devices have had us evolve (or, devolve) it needs to be from a distance. Too close and we might get too close. My god, the unthinkable!
Things suddenly became different for everyone a couple of months ago. I’m not seeing it all as being bad.
It’s funny how we’d grown so comfortable with social distancing through our phones and machines, yet the moment we’re forced to actually, physically separate we suddenly feel a pang. We’re only among others each day: not necessarily ‘with’ them or connected to them; more simply seeing them, sensing them, knowing them…we’ll often pass by asking “Hi, how are you?” without listening for the reply.
The epidemic of social distancing has been going on since the smartphone became a thing. We have choices now. Once, when I went to a café, bar or restaurant, I was just there: no peripheral activity, just sitting there, being there. Now I have choices. I can go anywhere I want to; I don’t need to be just ‘there’, I can be anywhere but there. ’
“Oh, to be somewhere other than where I am,” is the cry right now; “Oh, to see the people I’m not with (and not the ones I am with)”. For the couples and families who you’d see out at dinner (remember that?) while sitting together, but on their phones the whole time…they’ve been social distancing for years. The only way they know how to be is socially distant. Together, yet far apart.
The epidemic of social distancing has been going on since the smartphone became a thing. We have choices now. Once, when I went to a café, bar or restaurant, I was just there: no peripheral activity, just sitting there, being there. Now I have choices. I can go anywhere I want to; I don’t need to be just ‘there’, I can be anywhere but there.
Now, there’s no need. I can even use Uber Eats so I don’t need to go out with and be social anymore.
But the kicker’s this: now that I can have that every day, now that all I can do is be at home, be apart from others, just immersing myself completely in my established practice of social distancing as I choose… I’m not so keen.
I’m not alone in this. I, we all want it on our own terms. Life with smartphones has been training us for a life of social distancing. Now that we’ve got it, we don’t want it. We’re in that same Twilight Zone episode now – once we longed for isolation, and we’re getting good at it.
Now that it’s mandatory, suddenly we’re longing for what we once had but were hiding from.
Talk about irony.