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Distancing – social or physical? – a perspective

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Social distancing is a buzz word that will be remembered by a generation.

The term has different meanings for people of different age groups and a personal interpretation that would suit their life situation.

The government has been talking about how social distancing has been helping to ‘flatten the curve’, ‘bring the rate of R down’, and not overwhelm the NHS.

People have been listening to this advice and staying home, but how has this translated for the young people in our communities who have had to give up schools, colleges, university courses,

What does social distancing mean for them? How have they implemented it in their lives? How has it effected their mindset?

Young people and social distancing

Some young people state that this is a surreal experience for them.

They have been genuine in following the advice –

– so literally staying at home – a fear of going outside
– spending time in their gardens – if they have access to one
– wiping down surfaces frequently and using hand sanitisers

In short, adhering to all the distancing and hygiene practices that were advised.

When the ‘social distancing’ measure was found to be the most effective in managing the pandemic, there was a suggestion that it be referred to as ‘physical distancing’. It was believed that people can remain socially connected via technology. Thereby, giving people the opportunity to keep themselves physically safe without becoming socially isolated – disconnected from their social connections.

But how many young people have embraced technology to connect with others?

It does appear that some people might have interpreted social distancing as ‘social isolation’ rather than physical distancing. There seems to have been a ‘disconnection’ from not just their peers but also from wider community groups that they might have interacted with for example – faith groups, sports groups and mutual interest groups.

Since the start of the pandemic, social media platforms have had a vital role to play in the way information is communicated with the youth and how they connect with each other. There is a host of applications that can help to interact with others in various parts of the world.

Tik-Tok, an application that allows you to upload short form mobile videos of everyday life, has partnered with a number of local and global organisations offering a space to share accurate information about the virus and a live-stream to connect with its user cohort. This is a popular medium with young people to connect with their peers and others. Its role in the pandemic has been to keep the link strong between young people and the wider communities they live in.

While educational institutions have logged onto Google classroom to teach, students have looked towards Google hangouts – to ‘hangout’ with their friends and classmates.

Video chat platforms have become popular additions and extensions to our ‘virtual’ lives. The need for social and emotional support from peers, continues to be a driver to seek out that interaction.

Young people have logged onto social networking applications like Skype, ZOOM and Houseparty to ‘meet’ with their friends, share stories and play games.

In the midst of all the upheaval, young people have expressed feeling anxious over the uncertainty of the situation, a lack of motivation to able to focus on the tasks at hand and a sense of feeling ‘caged in’ as they are not allowed to go out and meet their peers.

For a society, that in the recent past has been trying to reduce ‘social isolation’ and increase community cohesion within various cohorts. It seems that we might have lost a lot of ground work and would need to start again once these measures are relaxed as we discover ‘the new normal’.

One You Hounslow health advisor

Video conferencing