Monday, April 13, 2020

Is Practicing Social Distancing making Us Anti-Social?

In a recent presentation sent to the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired community, a learning expert who is blind and recovering from a case of the virus discusses what we can do to protect ourselves and others.  The presentation is excellent and can be found on the Hadley website (www.hadley.edu).  The most important thing that Lisa said during this presentation is that we do not need social distancing.  We need physical distancing.  Most of us, blind or sighted, need more social connection during this very stressful and lonesome time.  While social connections cannot be made in person, they can be made by phone, online, or from a safe distance indoors or outdoors.

Everything that those of us who live with disabilities were taught about independent living is thrown out the window at this time when interdependent living is so important to all of us.  Now people are offering to pick up food or prescriptions.  Offering to read notices on apartment bulletin boards.  Businesses like Freedom Scientific are even offering free downloads of JAWS and Zoom Text products for a limited period of time.

I am finding that many people who are socially distancing themselves are becoming anti-social.  They seem so cranky when you interrupt their TV viewing, computer explorations, Alexa concerts, and streaming movies that I feel worse after I attempt to engage with them socially.  Some are obviously listening to too much news, political commentary, and virus debates.  Their rhetoric is bombastic, belligerent, crude, immature, and uncharacteristically boring.  Rather than having an original thought, they are repeating what they heard or read.  It is like having a discussion with a walking, talking, research paper.  “According to ….” 

In 1968-69, I was a dormitory resident assistant in a residence hall for girls.  At the beginning of the academic year, we Ras were given sensitivity training.  The academic landscape was changing, and university staff needed to be prepared to work with students from a larger variety of environments, experiences, and races than ever before.  It seems that this is also a time in history when sensitivity training and discussions are needed.  I, for example, am suddenly overcome by the word, “live,” when so many people are dying or coming down with a potentially deadly illness.  I cringe every time I hear the word whether it is in an announcement about the return of “Saturday Night Live” or the “Live from NPR News.”  “Live streaming” an interview with a political figure has the same result.  I know.  I am just a poet and writer who is more sensitive to words, their meanings, and their effects.  I’m not going to conduct a survey to see how many people have the same reaction.  I am just going to add this to the list of things that I hope will not still be bothering me when the current challenges are over.

I did stay up past my bedtime and watched “Saturday Night Live” this weekend.  Hearing a sports announcer doing a play-by-play of popcorn popping and an banana ripening made it worth losing some much needed beauty sleep.

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