Not Social Distance. Physical Distance. - Bruce Turkel

Since the outbreak of Coronavirus we’ve all learned a bunch of new terms: Flattening the curve, COVID-19, silent transmission. Heck, truth is I’d never even heard the term Coronavirus until just a few months ago even though it’s been around since I was in high school.

Of course, I’m not a medical professional so I don’t have much to say about those terms. But I am an expert in brand building and messaging strategy. As such, I have something important to say about a term we’re all using: Social Distancing.

Instead of using the term Social Distancing, let’s start saying (and practicing) Physical Distancing. That is, while we need to be careful not to get too close to each other physically, let’s be sure to stay close to one another virtually. Let’s make sure that we deliberately increase our social connections even while we’re carefully decreasing our physical connections.

Since the beginning of our time on earth, human beings have continually evolved as pack animals. Sometime around 2,500 years ago Aristotle wrote, “Man is by nature a social animal…Society is something that precedes the individual.” His words are still true all these years later.

Please understand that I’m not talking about not actually keeping a safe distance from other people. Every infectious disease expert and medical professional I’ve listened to (including my personal hero – my wife Gloria Nuñez-Turkel, ARNP, NP-C, FNP-BC) says that staying a minimum of six feet away from other people is key to staying healthy. It’s critical that we keep a safe distance until this contagion passes.

But at the same time that we’re keeping our distance, we need personal interaction more than ever.

Better living through technology.

Unlike crises of years past, we now have a number of technological tools to help us stay close to one another without actually being close to one another. Facetime, cell phones, social media sites, as well as meeting apps like Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, et al, all give us the ability to be together without actually being together.

Just because you shouldn’t hold a meeting with your company’s staff, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t meet with them – a webinar can be the perfect way to share information and maintain relationships without the risk of sharing pathogens.

The World Health Organization reports that patients of all ages without preexisting medical conditions who’ve contracted COVID-19 suffer a fatality rate of 1.4%. But patients aged 80 and over died at a rate of 21.9%. That means you cannot visit your 84-year old mother. But you can call or Facetime and stay in touch.

And until I hear differently, the US Post office is still taking their promise that “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night (will) stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” That means you can mail a letter, send a drawing, or post a card; all of which can brighten someone’s day.

Reach out and touch somebody’s heart.

Just because you shouldn’t touch someone doesn’t mean you can’t touch their heart. And today, maybe that’s the best thing that we can do. It all starts by replacing social distancing with physical distancing. Let’s all do that.


  1. March 20, 2020

    Amen!! You are right on target per usual!!

  2. Charlie Rathburn
    March 20, 2020

    Excellent, Bruce! Thanks

  3. March 20, 2020

    Truer words never written. If there is an upside to this global tragedy, it is to remind us of what is important.

    The gentle reminder to focus on fundamental values is much appreciated.

  4. March 20, 2020

    Brilliant and great advice. I’ll immediately change my language on this. I’m chatting with daughter on Whatsapp, emailing with my sister, and converting all my meetings including writers club to Zoom. Nova is now posting all our presentations as part of the LifeLong Learning Institute on Zoom. I just created a new webinar on working from home. We can’t do too much to PHYSICALLY distance ourselves. So I won’t be partying on the beach but enjoying solitary walks in nature. I’m washing my hands like a maniac, especially since the CDC tells me I’m elderly! Bruce, come up with better branding for us over 60 or 70 or whatever the new age definition is. I only think of my friend Molly, who’s 104 as elderly and she is still spry, with it, and has devised a very lively way to dance with her walker.

  5. March 20, 2020

    Such a great reminder to go all old school and WRITE A LETTER to our elderly parents and relatives. We can even use an app (TOUCHNOTE) to use our digital tools to send an analog physical letter!

  6. March 20, 2020

    Loved it! It’s not social distancing its physical distancing. As they say the devil is in the details. We must be patient never tolerant 😉
    Thanks Bruce for always being authentic, genuine and caring.

  7. March 20, 2020

    Thank you Bruce! This is an insightful post!
    We all need to encourage Physical distancing at this time, not social distance.

  8. Jim donovan
    March 20, 2020

    Good article bruce.


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