May 15 2020

Social Distancing or Social Distrust

I was at the grocery store the other day and thankfully most people were wearing masks (a big change from a few months ago when I was literally laughed at when I wore a mask to that same story, early on in the crisis). However, walking around, people’s body language really struck me. In our efforts to socially distance, we are going out of our way to stay away from each other. That’s exactly what we should be doing, but I felt like there was almost a veneer of distrust and mistrust between people. What people are thinking is made harder to understand because everyone’s facial expressions are hidden behind their masks. Is that person smiling at me or growling as I gave them space coming off the end of an isle? Did they hear my muffled voice say something kind as we passed or did I come off as mad?

It’s a good idea to consider that as we’re distancing from everyone in our lives except for members of our own household, it’s important to maintain the social ties and graces that keep us bonded together as a society. I’m not talking about zoom happy hours with your friends. I’m talking about how we treat strangers when we do find ourselves out and about.

The other day, my wife was at a different grocery store, talking to someone in the long line to check out (long in part because people were appropriately distancing). She described people eyeing her suspiciously, just for talking – as if we’re not supposed to be interacting in any way.

Let’s not lose our humanity in this. There are so many examples of people being generous with their time, energy, or money during this time of crisis, which is fantastic. But it’s also important in our day to day interactions that we do not lose a sense of our communities and connectedness to each other, even if we cannot be in close physical proximity.