“Social distancing” doesn’t have to mean actual distancing
(photo courtesy of Times of India)

As a rule, I’m a pretty upbeat, happy person. You might not get that impression from reading my blog posts, in which I tend to rant, but it’s true. My friends and family sometimes describe me as a goof, or a dork. I like to joke. I like to deal with difficult situations with humor, defuse tension with comedy. That’s the way I am.

Here in my blog, you’ll see my more serious side, even my angry side, some of my frustrations. Right now, when the world—I mean, jeez, the world!—is facing a deadly pandemic, I want to share more of my upbeat side in the hopes it’ll help.

People talk a lot about how technology atomizes society, how it creates a distance between people. How Millennials are always on their phones instead of talking to each other. How couples go out to dinner and are checking their Twitter feeds instead chatting about their day. How offices are filled with folks with headphones on instead of chatting with each other at the water cooler. And so on. I personally think this is overstated, but I understand the fears.

Technology atomizing society—in the 50s

Now we’re in a situation where not only are people needing to be careful with their physical contacts, but are actually being urged by government entities to engage in “social distancing.” This can be difficult if you’re like me, and a lot of your loved ones—your family, your friends, your family of choice—are hundreds or even thousands of miles away. I’d like to hunker down with my beloveds, but they live in San Francisco and Oakland and Olympia and LA and New England and Georgia and Maryland and Colorado and Montana and England and Vallejo and Santa Cruz and Lake Charles and all kinds of other places not exactly two streets over.

But you know what? We have cell phones with video capability. We have Skype and FaceTime and Zoom and Webex. We have Kik and Google Hangouts and FaceBook Messenger and WhatsApp. We have blogs and FaceBook and Twitter and Twitch and Instagram. We have MMORPGs and online DnD via Roll20 and virtual bridge and chess and backgammon and every other virtual interactive game you can imagine. I played Gō with a guy who lives on the shore of Lake Baikul, for the love of Pete! The very technology that everyone has complained has been atomizing and isolating us can be used to help us stay in contact, can be used to draw us closer together.

Yes, we are in a crisis. People are out there hoarding paper towels, TP, and vegetables (what they’ll do in three weeks with 200 rotting onions and potatoes I don’t know). But we don’t have to be isolated completely just because we’re forced to be isolated physically. Gather together around our technological fire with me and warm yourselves. Share our collective company through this amazing miracle we have wrought together. It is ours to share and celebrate. So let’s do so.

Let’s share it. Together. Because that’s how we survive.