Much is made these days of the idea of “social distancing,” a term I abhor because there ain’t nothing “social” about it. I understand and support the idea of maintaining space, but I can’t help but wish that “they” had come up with a better term for it!
Kathy & I were having a conversation recently where – one of our frequent subjects – we talked about the fact that there is way too much information available these days – that there is a big difference between information and facts. And she mentioned that there needs to be some term for the idea of maintaining “virtual distancing” from all the crap that circulates in the media and on the Internet.
Social Distancing, of course, means that my chances of getting cooties from someone decreases dramatically if they are outside my imaginary 6-foot personal space. By a similar token, if some virtual boogieman – real or imagined – is outside my zone of relevance, it’s importance to me means very little. We as a society pay way too much attention to people, voices and noise that have little or no direct influence on us. Because it is out there we feel some sense of obligation, and we never take the time to think about whether or not it is useful, helpful or relevant.
Case in point: our upcoming presidential election. We now know who the candidates are for each respective party. I now know who I’m going to vote for. Until I get my ballot in the mail, I don’t need to follow every analysis and every story relating to who vs. who or what vs. what or he said/she said. And you can be assured there will be plenty of it – it’s been going on for months and will really get started today (although I would love to see a head to head debate between Ms. Harris and Trumpty Dumpty, which of course will never happen). Send me my ballot and let me vote. Beyond that I have no influence, I have no emotional investment. I’ll do my civic duty as a responsible citizen and live with the results when I read them the next day.
I’m liking the concept of Virtual Distancing even more than Social Distancing. Social Distancing is pretty easy – stay away from people! Virtual distancing isn’t any harder, as long as we pay attention to who and what is trying to get our attention. While the most effective form of distancing means staying completely away from people, their ideas and their opinions, that just isn’t practical. But just like we cast a wary eye on that person behind us in line at the grocery store, we need to approach our media consumption with the same level of caution and skepticism. And turn it off when it makes sense to do so.