Ask Abby: Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation

Graphic by Haley Morkert. 


Full disclosure: I am not a licensed therapist. Honestly, I am not licensed in anything whatsoever. I’m just a gal with lots of opinions who enjoys giving unsolicited advice to almost anyone around me. So, if this is adverse advice, you can’t sue me or my place of work. Sorry!

“I recognize how necessary it is to maintain social distancing, but am terrified of being lonely over the next few months. I just don’t know what to do.” — Loyal Reader

I’d like to acknowledge how unfair and painful life feels right now. Although our current situation is out of anyone’s control and is no one’s fault, it feels heavy and scary and frustrating. It can be hard to find the exact words to talk about how you feel in times like these, but it’s important to try.

The way you feel is valid, no matter what emotion springs to mind. It’s valid to be angry, anxious, confused, unsure, numb, even relieved! Everything you feel needs to be felt, and you deserve to be supported in that. 

When it comes to social distancing, I get nervous too. Although I am the most introverted of introverts and love my alone time, I value my friendships a lot and sometimes all I need is a good hug. You know me, quality time and physical touch, baby! Social connections are genuinely the most important thing in my life, which I’m sure a lot of people relate to.

Feeling as if you might lose these social connections can make uncertain times feel unbearable. While a hug may not be the best thing for anyone right now, there are plenty of ways to maintain relationships with those close to you without contributing to the spread of germs.

1) Pick up the phone 

This may seem overly simple and kind of, well, obvious, but it’s truly a fantastic way to stay in touch with those that love you. Phone calls can be quick and easy, and you can actually hear someone’s tone, unlike in a text message. Lack of punctuation can’t cause an argument if you’re not typing, sis. Plus, this is an effective method for getting a hold of everyone from your boss to your friends to your grandma. 

2) FaceTime or… Zoom? 

Listen, I know this one isn’t rocket science either. The fun ones are closer to the bottom, I promise. I want you to read the whole article, can you blame me? If you’re missing someone’s face, just FaceTime them. Then, if you run out of things to say you can just stare. If you’re an, ahem, green-text-bubble-person, then use Zoom it’s not just for academics, people!

3) Meme it out 

I don’t know about everyone else, but I live for a good meme. Being away from everyone means there’s no more leaning over to show your best friend a good one. If a meme reminds you of someone or you think it’ll make them laugh, send it to them! We need all the smiles and giggles we can get.

4) Just knock, baby

If you’re still in the mood to know someone’s in your house but aren’t willing to be directly around them, there’s only one thing to do communicate using morse code. Knocking on a wall might not be what you guys consider fun, but give it a couple of weeks. It’ll seem like a fantastic idea. I wish I was kidding. Spend the time you can with those who are stuck inside with you. Who knows the next time you’ll get to spend quality time like this with your mom, sister or grandma. Not to mention your pets!

5) Book club

Coordinate with your friends, read the same books or watch the same movies, and talk about them. As time goes on, it’ll feel more frustrating to hear about nothing but coronavirus. While current and accurate information is important and valuable, it might be nice to take a break sometimes and think about something completely different. This will give you a task to complete and entirely new subjects to talk about once conversation starts to get stale.

6) The ol’ pen and paper

When you’re sick of your phone and your fingers are tired of typing from your online classes, try using a writing utensil. Sending letters to your friends can be a fun way to stay up-to-date and connected without the pressure of speaking in real time. Some people may need space to heal right now, and that’s okay too.

7) Peer into your crystal ball

Things are tough right now. It’s okay to feel frustrated and like your entire life has been put on hold. It can be helpful, however, to plan for the future. You can plan a tentative trip to see your friends, start to save for tickets to see your favorite musician or comedian live when they get back on the road, or, if you’re running low on funds like me, plan your next day of free museum-hopping! Get excited for things to come — things can’t and won’t be like this forever. Sunny days are around the corner, I promise.

Reach out if you feel lonely. Be honest about it. People love you and care about you, and want to support you. Being socially distant doesn’t have to mean being socially isolated. Together, we can get through this.

You are valuable, valid and loved. And please, wash your gosh-darn hands. 


If you have a question that you’d like to see discussed in Ask Abby, feel free to contact me via email, carrier pigeon or telepathy. Not in person though. Maybe next year.


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