Against the Grain: Is it really social distancing?

14 July, 2020


‘Social distancing’ is a commonly used phrase in the current COVID-19 era. While the intent is to maintain physical distance and minimise social contact, the use of ‘social distancing’ could be a misnomer. In ‘Against the Grain: Is it really social distancing’, an article in The Edge Malaysia, Professor Syed Farid Alatas (NUS Sociology) distinguishes social distancing from physical distancing.

Prof Alatas argues that social distancing actually means physical distancing. In sociology, social distance refers to ‘a lack of social contact, regardless of physical distance or proximity’. This distinction is important as our practice of physical distancing does not require social distancing. Alternative forms of social contact such as social media and video calls are examples of increasing social contact while minimising physical proximity. Therefore, Prof Alatas encourages a more critical understanding of the use of ‘social distancing’.

Read the article here.