Definition of social distancing

“Maintenance of the proper distance and degree of respect that the lower orders should exhibit toward their social superiors”.

Huh? Whatever that means.


What era was that from?


Clearly that is not the public health definition.

In what context did you find it?

My bishop has encouraged his brother priests to instead choose the terms “physical distancing” or even “spatial distancing”.

As with other public officials, our bishop is concerned about people getting the wrong idea from the connotations of “social distancing” to believe we are supposed to withdraw from interpersonal relationships, from greeting one another warmly, and from being concerned for each other’s well-being.


Curious about this, I did an online search for the origin of term “social distancing” and found that the term is considered misleading, even by public health professionals. We need to be socially close even if we have to be physically distant.

Apparently the term “social distancing” began to be used in this way around 2003, in connection with the SARS epidemic, and unfortunately this usage stuck.

Prior to about 2003, psychologists spoke of social distance as physical distance regulated by social norms, but not specifically in the sense you put forth. It is not all about social superiority, but applies more generally to social interactions.

Take, for example, hugging. In the US, hugging is mainly reserved for family, loved ones, closest friends, and emotional occasions like weddings and funerals. If a not-so-close friend, acquaintance, or colleague initiates a hug, it may seem improper or confusing to the recipient. In other cultures, hugging of mere acquaintances or colleagues may be the norm.

Another example is arm touching. In face-to-face conversation in US culture, most people will not reach out and touch the other person’s arm for emphasis, but this is done in other cultures.

Physical distance also has social significance in public transportation, walking in the city, public speaking, and many other situations. In the US, social class distinctions as you cited can also be a factor.

Down to 2 square metres in SA

I don’t have any social superiors or inferiors.

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That sounds much better than those commercials that say “Alone together”. They grate on my nerves.


In my state it’s defined as staying 6ft apart due to health concerns. :stuck_out_tongue:

This might help


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