Social Distancing

No disrespect to those affected by the disease…but the new term used by immunologist Anthony Fauci is an introvert’s dream.

We’ve never before been told that it was healthy to distance ourselves from other people. No, instead we’ve been told that it’s not healthy to be so stand-offish, not good for us to avoid social occasions, not conducive to our mental health to stay home, alone.

And, yet, here we are in the Age of the Coronavirus. It’s an era when large companies are identifying Social Distancing as a policy, requiring employees to work from home to avoid spreading germs and potentially causing a company shut-down. It’s a time when even those remaining business leaders who think you need to show up to be counted are backing down and recognizing that remote work really is a possibility. While technology could equip us, it couldn’t break down some of the barriers people have had about working from home. No, it’s taken a physical virus to do that.

Fauci, who is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is credited with popularizing the term “social distancing.” As I understand it, it’s meant to encourage us to use common sense and limit our exposure to illness. And it’s got to be shaking up corporate America a bit—upending the social more that says, “You must push yourself to go to work; you don’t dare miss or they’ll replace you.”

As the term catches on, we’re hearing about changes across all categories. Churches encouraging the practice—yes, churches. Those places where, up until now, handshakes have been mandatory and hugging strangers has been acceptable. Stadiums are looking into livestreaming to attract the crowd—sans parking fees, stadium food, and high ticket prices. Events being cancelled, like SXSW. Cable programmer A&E is foregoing its live event in favor of a streamed presentation. The cost is going to be high, and the innovation challenge is already on.

So, do we call this the end of the Age of Experience? For many years now we’ve been responding to the younger generation’s pull of “experience” because it draws people in the door. Sure, you might be able to enjoy it via technology, but there is nothing like being there, right? Sure, unless you come home sick. E-Sports obviously was onto something.

Because now we’re being told not to travel, not to congregate in crowds, and, if you are over 60, just stay home in general. This is going to change how business operates, how we socialize, and how technology becomes even more personal.

As for the introverts among us, we finally have a global strategy that allows us to hibernate, put our head down and do our work, and, with good reason, keep our socialization to a minimum. But at what cost?

Stay tuned.