Posted by martinknox
Restrictions on social behaviour could change how we act and think for long after the COVID-19 epidemic ends.
Proxemics is the study of how interpersonal distances and spaces affect human interaction, regulated by body language and communication. Individuals have intimate, personal, social and public zones, at increasing radii. If access to each other’s intimate zone up to 0.50 metres away is denied, intimate interaction would be reduced, affecting particularly relations between family members. Keeping people more than 1.0 metres away would exclude them from the personal zone, with a diminution of correspondence about matters of personal significance, such as observations and opinions. At social distances beyond, out to 4 metres, exchange of acknowledgement, greetings, humorous quips, retorts and peremptory comments are more likely. Further away, in the public zone, information might be broadcast by a speaker, or received by an audience member, without having individual personal content.
Besides reducing transmission of the virus, social distancing will reduce intimacy and personal expression. A role of near-distance interaction is to maintain and build a relationship, with communication of beliefs and negotiation of differences with others. When individuals are less closely involved and have to deal with each other less intimately, with others looking on, there could be winners and losers. Winners could be individuals who prefer to operate alone and at a distance from others without being closely questioned. Losers could be without familiar advice and encouragement from intimate relatives and personal friends who they rely on for satisfying interactions.
Remedial alternatives for social distancing are talking remotely, phoning, texting, messaging, posting on social media, email letter writing, representation by another or even engaging in identity politics. Compared with face-to-face talking and listening in a chat, they lack emotion, spontaneity, nuances, vernacular and inflections. Their communication may be more reflective, cerebral, figurative and empathetic. Consequences of substituting superficial interaction at nearer distances, with more deliberative distant modes, would be significant for well-being, independence and creativity.
Isolation would have different effects.