Social Initiative Forum Project Leader Joan Sleigh highlights three questions emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic and current events worldwide in this 4-part series.
Text: Joan Sleigh [ZA] | Photo: Nicole Asis [PH]
Whether in Europe or Africa, Asia or the Americas, social restrictions caused by enforced spatial distancing have brought societies and social communities into unprecedented challenges.
The question has arisen in many places – whether lack of social encounters, exercise, or the daily purpose of work does not equally challenge the vitality of the immune system as does being infected by the virus itself.
This question cannot be answered so simply because both the social and the health situations are more complex than a simple comparison.
In this current, acutely real experience of fear, disempowerment, and isolation, many contemporaries worldwide are looking for new trans-regional and transcultural ways of meeting. Particularly through the advance of social media and technology, new possibilities of staying connected, building relationships, and sharing mutual experiences are increasingly becoming substitutes for face-to-face interactions.
Many of the daily human encounters have moved to private lounges interconnected via screens and monitors.
From teaching and learning in the classroom to studying in lecture halls, from business offices to conferences, even sports training and contemplative practices, all face-to-face meetings have now been shifted to online platforms.
These discoveries are exciting as a sense of limitless virtual interconnectedness and banish the fear of isolation.
Yet can this really be a surrogate of what is truly human: the genuine encounter of one human being with another?