Social [media] distancing

Everywhere these days you hear the phrase “social distancing”, a phrase I feel didn’t exist until the last few months. In essence, what this means is that we (i.e. society) must maintain a high degree of space or outright isolation (i.e. distancing) from each other in an effort to slow the spread of the SARS-COV-2 virus and the COVID-19 it brings with it. In the absence of any proven treatments or immunization regimens, completely overturning the everyday lives of hundreds of millions is, sadly, the only real way to stem the tide of infection and disease. This is difficult on people who are used to being able to go wherever they want on the slightest of whims, but it’s something that we are trying hard to adopt.

The difficulty then becomes what to do when you’re not supposed to leave your home and, even if you do, there are few places where you could even go. Restaurants have either shut down entirely or limit access to prevent too much mingling and potential infection. Stores have also locked up or reduced their hours in a containment measure. The internet, unsurprisingly, has then become an outlet and refuge for the quarantined masses, more so than usual. On Twitter we can bemoan the pathetic state of the public healthcare system. On Facebook, we post updates on how our lives have been changed and our routines interrupted while on Instagram we can share memes by the dozens that highlight the absurdity and foolishness of everything associated with this event.

But the illusion of relationship and friendship social media offers can quickly devolve into a cyclical tit-for-tat to see who can be more miserable. It can also act as a pulpit for false prophets, bullies of every variety and sanctimonious ‘influencers’ trying their best to expand and further monetize their ‘brand’ at the expense of an anxious and isolated public. Social media’s chronic obnoxiousness has become even more toxic and unbearable as rumors, half-truths, white lies and outright hoaxes flood our timelines, damaging our capability to discern reality from fantasy and only adding to the general angst and stress of the times. As the virus continues to infect, the last thing we need is the social diseases poisoning us from Silicon Valley that use our phones and tablets as vectors.

That’s why I’ve been, for the last few days, been practicing social media distancing, a method of getting away from the doom and gloom, the fire and fury of Twitter and Facebook. It’s been a relief. I deleted both apps from my phone and I do not miss them. It’s liberating having no reason to post a blistering tirade on your newsfeed or issue a damning tweet response to some bot’s inane comment. I don’t have to participate in the muckraking and juvenile antics of social media and neither do you. Those who genuinely want to communicate with you can reach you by text or phone call or (best of all) a written letter with an honest to God stamp on it. I know that eventually I will wade back into the mire of social media, but maybe not until this pandemic is winding down and we can buy toilet paper again.

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