Building Community While Social Distancing

How to self-isolate without cutting ourselves off from community

Building Community While Social Distancing
Photo by Brandon Griggs / Unsplash

Social distancing is the latest phrase to enter the global lexicon. Epidemiologists agree avoiding people is the only tool we have to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

People are more isolated and lonely than ever. Social distancing, while vital, will cut people off from their communities, friends, neighbors, and families.

So how do we protect the public by practicing social distancing without cutting ourselves off from our communities? We must be creative and intentional.

Enhance Existing Communities

As schools, churches, conferences, theme parks, governments, and gatherings are canceling everywhere, our communities are disappearing. Thankfully we live in a time with plenty of tools for digital connection.

Organizations across the country are moving everything to digital platforms. While not the same as connecting in person, digital connection is better than no connection. We can follow suit with smaller communities we’re part of.

Instead of meeting a group of friends at a restaurant and exposing or spreading COVID-19, order takeout and connect on FaceTime. Reach out to other friends who might not live nearby and add them in.

Contact Vulnerable Communities

While the world moves digital, our grandparents and elderly friends overwhelmingly do not own smartphones or digital devices. They are just as lonely(if not more) as the rest of us.

Socialization helps improve mental health yet our grandparents and elderly friends don’t use the same tools we do. To ensure COVID-19 does not further isolate them from community, we need to be intentional and reach out.

Millennials don’t enjoy making phone calls. I get it. Talking on the phone is strange and unnatural, but for the sake of our grandparents and elderly friends we need to call.

Seek New Communities

In times of crisis, people find alternative ways to come together. While most Americans don’t know their neighbors, now is a critical time to reach out. Connect from porches and yards. Or follow the quarantined Italians’ lead and join in songfrom your balcony.

Self-isolating Nadia Bolz-Weber, the Sarcastic Lutheran, invited people into her home, sharing her artwork on Instagram. Kristen Bell, everyone’s favorite mom, turned a friend’s canceled concert into an Instagram Live show. The world entered her living room to listen to songs sung by the fireplace.

Remember, we’re all in this together. While COVID-19 is disproportionately devastating to older people, the virus does not discriminate. We must be good neighbors while practicing safe social distancing. Don’t hoard supplies, don’t fly if you’re sick. Be kind and care for others while investing in your community.

A version of this article also appeared on Medium.