March 12, 2021

Ep. 16 Social Distancing NOT

Ep. 16 Social Distancing NOT

They got the message wrong. It’s “physical” not social distancing

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What Has My Attention podcast

If this is your first time here, welcome. I’m John Biethan your host.

This is being recorded on March 12, 2021, and I know things look very much like if we mind our P’s and Q’s we’ll be able to get back to some real unmasked socialization very soon.

Probably the most valuable thing I’ve learned over the last many years of podcasting is that over time, podcasting builds long-lasting, trusted relationships that are absolutely worth their weight in gold personally and in business. And during the pandemic, there have been a lot of NEW podcasters who are on the path to discovering just that. 

But here’s what's got my attention lately and with a very big concerning question.

What are the physiological effects and impact of the isolation most of us have experienced in the last year?

Here are some things I’ve discovered with everything I’m quoting on here found in the links provided in the episode program notes.

Where did “Social Distancing” Come From?

The Guardian May 28, 2020, by Steven Poole

'Social distancing': how a 1950s phrase came to dominate 2020

If “social distancing” sounds to you more like snubbing or ghosting a friend, you are right. It was a 1957 collection of work by sociologist Karl Mannheim that first described it as a way to enforce power hierarchies. “The inhibition of free expression can also serve as a means of social distancing,” he wrote. “Thus, the higher ranks can constrain themselves to preserve a certain kind of deportment or dignity.” In doing so, they distance themselves socially from the plebs.

From “Social” to “Physical”, The Byte March 20th, 2020 by Victor Tangermann

The WHO wants you to ditch the phrase “social distancing”

The World Health Organization is officially advocating against the phrase “social distancing” and is from here on // recommending the phrase “physical distancing” instead, according to Reuters.

The idea is to clarify that an order to stay at home during the current coronavirus outbreak isn’t about breaking contact with your friends and family - but rather keeping a physical distance to make sure the disease doesn’t spread.

Psychological Effects of “Social Distancing”

PMC // US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health August 16, 2020, by Kevin Sikali

The dangers of social distancing: How COVID‐19 can reshape our social experience

To society, social distancing presents the dangers of increasing social rejection, growing impersonality and individualism, and the loss of a sense of community. It negatively affects learning and growth, and it prevents people from effectively socializing, which is a fundamental human need.

Austen Riggs Center / August 10, 2020 / By Katie Lewis, PhD

Staying Away: The Psychological Impact of Social Distancing

Right now, the physical health and well-being of the country depend on our adherence to the recent and ongoing implementation of social distancing (SD) in communities across the globe // to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). However, the current scale of SD is unprecedented and may lead to significant and lasting negative psychological effects. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and a recent review of studies about quarantine during infectious disease outbreaks[1], SD can lead to a higher prevalence of: Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Loneliness, Feelings of frustration, and Boredom.

Sound familiar? I’ve experienced at least 4 of those conditions now and in this last year.

Last March 2020 when all this started social distancing, I realized this: connection and relationship are the vaccines against isolation. 

So here’s what I’m doing. When I have someone that comes to mind and I’m curious about how they are doing, I pick up the phone and call them. I don’t text or email them. I call them. Maybe we’ll jump on a screen call. Maybe not.

Until we get this virus under control, replace “social” with “physical” when you’re talking about it and pick up the phone.

If you know anyone with credibility that you think you’d like to hear from about this, let me know, and I’ll see about bringing them on the show so we can talk about it. Go to and leave me a message. And if you want to chime in with an audio comment, you can just click on the little blue button at the bottom right of any page and leave me a comment or question, and it may be aired on the show.

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Music Credits

Shine All Night by AudioStock and Motion Array Royalty-Free Music.

Dope Digging by Martijn de Boer (NiGiD)

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial (3.0) license