April 16 – Social Distancing The True Death of Society


It was all a dream…

 I used to post pictures to Facebook, and everyone would give the wonderful cyber-acknowledgment that we all crave. It was a virtual popularity contest, and my generation was right about that age, where they actually gave a damn about the accomplishments of others. Technology finally did some good for humanity, linking distant family members, and giving former classmates the opportunity to smirk at one another’s lack of success. Followup questions would be, “Who got old? Who went grey? Who got fat?” When they tell you, “Wow, you look the same!” they’re secretly saying,”……God Damn! What happened to you!?.….”

 Maybe not, but I digress. 

 It was social networking, and that was meant to bring us together! For a while, that’s exactly what happened until the advent of “Filter Bubbles.” It may not have been given that name officially, but Eli Praser’s TED Talk of May 2011 explained the dynamic in detail. It had been in development for years. Essentially, your online experience was being tailored to give you “more of what you want.” 

 Algorithms were automatically stripping out the people who seemed to annoy you and replacing them with those who you tend to agree with. Praser nailed it early on. He foretold of a future where end users exist within an echo chamber. Being faced with your own opinion at every turn, without a hint of dissent, is the main factor leading celebrities to neurotic breakdowns. They never hear the word NO. It’s the foundation of every corrupt regime, and why should anyone question you? Just stay on our platform, and you can be right all the time! 

 We were addicted to “Likes.”

 Facebook created a virtual building that housed several billion people, then suddenly walled them off from one another, like jail. That is not social networking. That was our introduction to social DISTANCING. Add to that the new smartphones coming out at the time. Human interaction changed from enjoying the moment (with whoever is there) to CAPTURING the moment (for whoever is NOT there). Don’t believe me. Try talking to someone as they stare mindlessly into their device. You are hereby socially distanced.

 What has followed was ugly. People have nothing but distrust for one another. Xenophobia and nationalism of every type became weaponized versions of themselves. Whole regimes were toppled, leaving power vacuums in remote regions. No matter who you loved or hated, you could “PROMOTE YOUR POST” and find targeted followers who felt the same way. These people linked up virtually. They formed hate-speech chat rooms and socially distanced themselves even further into monolithic, groupthink splinter cells. School shootings, terror attacks, suicides, drug use, tide pod challenges, etc., have all sprouted from the unnatural collection of misguided thought processes being confused with “encouragement.” I finally belong to a group that understands me, and they hold sway over my behavior.

 Fast forward to the beginning of a new decade. 2020, a respiratory virus has spread from China to the rest of the world. Doctors recommend “Social Distancing” as a universal precaution. The term has been hammered into us so much now that it’s second nature. It leaves me wondering why did they use the word “social”? Being a writer, I know it would have been more illustrative and appropriate to use the word “physical.” 

 “Physical distancing” might not have the same ring to it. So maybe “Physical Spacing” would have done the trick. The reason I bring this up is that social distance protocol has translated to “Cowardly Cringing” as I walk by someone; no nod, certainly no eye contact. In fact, the only acknowledgment of one’s presence is their feeble attempt to avoid the germs that I, as a fellow human being (and even worse, a Black person) must certainly be carrying.

 Please hold: I’ve just activated my race card. Let me silence the alarm. There are problems in China, folks, but it’s not just China. I know they wouldn’t let Black people into the fast-food restaurant, but hell, that might actually be sparing them some of the drawbacks related to the “particularities of cuisine” in that region. I can only guess, but again. It’s not just China! 

 The whole world has been socially distanced into an “us against them” dynamic. In Africa, Chinese racism has sparked an equally severe backlash, threatening foreign trade agreements. Still, Africans all over the world routinely make war with each other. In the United States, Asians are on the receiving end of “Coronaviolence.” Still, there is plenty of Hong Kong protest video with dissidents being beaten to within an inch of their lives. 

 Meanwhile, Anthony Fauci announces to the whole world that “African Americans” are more likely to come down with you guessed it. CORONAVIRUS! Well, take a number, Corona! Please have a seat over there next to heart disease, COPD, hypertension, PTSD, and a myriad of things that we’ll be blamed and stigmatized for. 

 Social distancing has taught people not to have compassion. People brag in online comments about “having no sympathy for those who refuse to stay inside,” of what? Their often crime-infested neighborhoods are riddled with socioeconomic conditions that do not allow someone to simply take the quarter off. The fast-food restaurants certainly do not refuse to serve Black people here, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a HEALTH food restaurant anywhere close. Wages are lower, property values have risen, schools and all businesses were closed.

 Sound familiar? Perhaps you didn’t think it could happen to you, but social distancing reduced our collective awareness. The entire USA is now facing that same situation, on COVID-19 Lockdown, and you never saw it coming. It is a public health risk for you to interact physically with strangers, but not socially. Socially we must always seek to come together. 

 The Filter Bubble social experiment was great for advertisers, but it has turned each of us into little dictators. How many times have we seen: “If you truly believe [this or that], UNFRIEND ME NOW!!”. That is begging for more of the same. It’s essential that we disagree with each other, find commonalities where we can, and maintain the connection that keeps us alive. No person is an island.