As opposed to Shakespeare’s famous quote “What’s in a name?” there’s actually quite a bit in the name at least in this situation. After Daniel Aldrich, a professor of political science and public policy at Northeastern University expressed his concerns about how the term “social distancing” is misleading and how the wide usage of the word could actually be counterproductive, even the World Health Organization came to the same conclusion and said how “Physical Distancing” is a better way to go about it. The term ‘social distancing’ translates to how we have to become a more separate and individual society, but there is no way we are going to survive this problem and emotionally support ourselves through this if that is what we do.
The counterproductive and negative effect of the usage of the term “social distancing” instead of “physical distancing” will be seen in India due to its long standing history of social discrimination, animosity and stigma. Social distancing has been present in our country both vertically in form of classism, casteism and communal division and horizontally in form of growing public interest in divisive politics. Social distancing stares at our face in every village and every settlement where there are demarcated divisions for lower castes and other minority community. It’s important that we realize that the continued usage of the word “social distancing” in a country which has a history of hundreds of years of practice of a social evil like untouchability and where caste based discrimination is still a reality, would shut the door to any form of reform and improvement in society and public behavior in terms of the stigma that is faced by the lower castes of our country. Recently across urban areas, there have been several reports of stigmatization of those who tested positive for COVID-19 virus, especially against the people from the North-East who have mongoloid physical features.
The pandemic should encourage us to strengthen our social relations while also maintaining physical distance, because social ties and networking are essential to get through disasters. Although we have stopped real-time, face to face interaction with people there is no reason as to why we shouldn’t be reaching out to technology to help us stay connected through this period. It’s more essential than ever to work on community building, by taking help of various networking platforms. One such platform is the Metvy application, which is India’s first multilingual networking base which enables people with mutual interest connect with the help of AI and not only does it help you find connections but also predicts your networking needs. And since it’s multilingual and easy to use it caters to a large group of audience, especially in a diverse country like India. Metvy helps like minded people to come together and help each other professionally and cohesively work for mutual progress. A platform like Metvy is just a small step towards promoting inclusiveness and community building which will prove to be very vital in the times of disaster just like the one we are facing right now: the pandemic and also the social divide that the term “social distancing” has the potential to create. Now is the time for us to stay together in solidarity, for humanity.
By: Sudeshna Sahu