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Terminology: No to SOCIAL distancing, Yes to PHYSICAL distancing!

Terminology: No to SOCIAL distancing, Yes to PHYSICAL distancing!

These days, we hear a lot about "social distancing" to slow the spread of COVID-19, as an essential health intervention. It will be a disaster if our health system collapses because of admitting many severe cases in a short time.

However, we must carefully select our terminology. What a word means to us does not necessarily mean the same for everyone. --- "Socially distant yourself" is perceived with the desired degree of physical as well as emotional and spiritual remoteness between individuals in society.

Social distancing is a loaded term, a reminder of the distinction between the aristocracy and the common person of the Roman Empire (defined by land ownership), or a dark culture against certain minorities and social classes in the Middle Ages.

Let's say "PHYSICAL distancing"

Loving your neighbour is medicine in these difficult times! Let's do not push people away from this precious concept using less desirable terminology of "social" estrangement. Let's ask all officials to please avoid using language that could lead to unintended consequences of emotional and spiritual distancing of people. Let us normalize the term "PHYSICAL distancing"


Reza Afshari; PhD

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