[A]sexuality,  [Random] Thoughts,  Mental [Un]health,  Queer[ness]

literal “social distancing” from the ace community

this post is a submission for the March 2020 Carnival of Aces with this month's theme of "Leaving" hosted by Coyote over at The Ace Theist. never heard of a blogging carnival? check out the masterpost. either way, we have em to blame (or thank) for the following braindump.

at the time of writing this, the date is March 31st, 2020:

  • just over 2 months since the first case of COVID-19 in America was confirmed in Washington state, a little more than an hour from where i presently live.
  • 7 days since the 14-day “Stay At Home” order was announced by the governor of Washington in response to people continually disregarding his more lenient requests for Washingtonians to do just that.
  • 1 day after it was officially announced that in doing so, Washington has not only managed to become the first state to have a confirmed case of the virus but also the first state to have possibly “flattened the curve”, slowing down the otherwise steadily increasing number of cases each day. even if only by a little. *knocks on wood*

with the onset of the pandemic that is COVID-19, life as many of us know it has been changing day by day. many of us have been asked, if not ordered, to intentionally change our day-to-day lives; the term “social distancing” has gone from being public health jargon to a colloquialism or buzzword practically overnight as the world struggles to weld what is currently considered to be our most powerful weapon against this highly contagious virus.

“Social Distancing and Stopping the Spread” via oumedicine.com

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has described “social distancing” as a collection of “methods for reducing frequency and closeness of contact between people in order to decrease the risk of transmission of disease.” social distancing is generally called upon once the number of cases of the virus within a given community is so numerous that contact tracing is no longer a viable means of curving its spread.

however, as the term gained wide-spread usage, so too did criticism of it begin to spread; an ever-growing number of voices are now turning to the term “physical distancing” instead—and thank Cat God they are because, personally, i really need the term “social distancing” to discuss something parallel to its usage in this context, but decidedly different. something much more semantically relevant, imho.

seemingly forever ago i wrote about why i’ve found myself increasingly drifting away from not only blogging about [my] asexuality, but also from general interaction with ace communities as a means of self-care. i hesitate to even bring up that particular post in relation to this month’s Carnival about “leaving” because it was never my intention to actually leave in the definitive sense of the word. rather, it was my intention (both consciously at times as well as unconsciously) to socially distance myself from ace spaces & discourse for so long as need be for me to stop feeling somekindofnegativeway.

having said all that, with the prevailing usage of the term being almost exclusively in reference to something as disasterous as a pandemic, it feels unwise of me to frame my present relationship with the ace community using such a term…

and yet i will. and yet i’m going to. because i want to.

perhaps, then, it’d be worthwhile for me to try to [re]contextualize my usage of the term with an analogy that refers back to the term’s original meaning.


— Toby Morris (Spinoff.co.nz) / CC BY-SA

during a pandemic, the goal of so-called social distancing is to physically distance yourself from others. sometimes this translates into maintaining a set physical distance away from others, while yet other times it may take on a more ‘extreme’ meaning of quarantining or isolating oneself. either way, you’re trying to protect others from harm’s way while simultaneously protecting yourself.

similarly, for me, socially distancing has meant both physically and—much more importantly socially—distancing myself from certain people, spaces, and discourse as a means of mitigating the potential for harm to me as well as to others. it just so happens to be that for the purposes of this particular blog post, the aforementioned “certain people, spaces, and discourse” is my fellow aces, ace spaces, and ace discourse. either way, be it with regards to a pandemic or individualized [mental] health [crisis], the end goal is the same: protect oneself (myself) from the harmful failings of their own [mental un]health while simultaneously protecting others from whatever social fallout could also occur on account of said [mental un]health.

i mean, sometimes you just have to know when to tap out not only for your own sake, but also for the sake of others because they ought not to have to deal with the consequences of your lapse in judgment / [mental] health, you know? be it with regards to the much more large-scale problem that is a contagious virus or on the comparatively smaller scale that is your own mental self-combustion.


I would argue that what we are doing right now is physical distancing, not social distancing. We are creating physical distance between us to limit the spread of the virus. But we should be doing that in the same breath as we are maintaining our social connections and sense of community and common sense of purpose.

— Dr. Sandro Galea, Public Health Professor & Epidemiologist (03.20.20)

as previously mentioned, in response to the present-day pandemic of COVID-19, a growing number of people have begun to voice their concerns over the potential for unintended adverse effects as a consequence of the now widespread usage of the term “social distancing” as opposed to “physical distancing”. while some, like Dr. Galea above, do so tastefully, others seemingly do so solely by postulating that the term is misleading because it flies in face of the tried cliché of a “universal truth” that is human beings being “social by nature”.

Social distancing is vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19, but [the term] also pushes against human beings’ fundamental need for connection with one another.

— Professor Jamil Zaki, Stanford University Dept. of Psychology (03.19.20)

to me, people asserting (or even simply assuming) that all humans have a ‘fundamental need’ for human interaction is akin to the similarly oft-made assertion about sex being a ‘fundamental need’… and for anyone who might be reading this but is new to this blog, that fundamentalist bullshit doesn’t fly around here.

while there is no doubt that legitimate reasons for concern as to the adverse effects of prolonged social (or phyiscal) isolation exist and that, subsequently, good reasons for concern also exist with regards to physical and / or social distancing in the face of a pandemic, i wish that people would qualify their statements rather than misspeak about the totality of The Human Experience. at the very least contextualize your statements, people.

as a socially anxious person, i can say with certainty that social interaction isn’t something that i fundamentally need. some might argue that i’m socially anxious [mostly] unironically due to a lack of ‘adequate’ social interaction earlier in life, to which i say touché. don’t care. what i do fundamentally need, as not only a socially anxious person but also as an introvert, is the ability to practice social distancing at my own discretion. that is, in order to remain “functional” as a human being, i need to have the ability to self-quarantine, self-isolate, socially & physically distance myself not only from the world at large but also from a community that in the past i may have not-so-fundamentally needed.

that’s just it. twenty, twenty-five years ago there was a need that i had for the ace community. the need to know that others existed who shared my experiences; the need to know that language existed to describe people like me; the need not only for such knowledge in the abstract, but for actual interaction be it via multimedia or with other people directly. that said, if that need continues to exist in me now, it’s changed. i’ve changed. and i fear that what—if anything in particular—i may need now is not something that the community at present can afford me. furthermore, i may have very well fallen into my all-too-familiar safety net of withdrawal without the required will power to get out of it.

that’s the trouble with practicing social distancing as a socially anxious introvert: it’s actually more comfortable than the world says it ought to be.

now, amidst a global pandemic and literal orders to self-quarantine, i can’t help but mull over the fact that… in spite of not feeling the so-called ‘hallmark’ negative effects of social or physical isolation that medical professionals are increasingly talking about these days, i actually would like to unsocially distance myself from the ace community. even if only to more proactively watch it from a distance with occasional rants on my part.

i mean, it does almost-kinda-sorta feel like i did inadvertently “leave” the community, even if purely owing to the near-complete lack of it (or rather, interaction with it) for over the past year of my life. having said that, it’s hard for me to reverse my inaction, ignite whatever fire there might be within me to once again interact with ace communities, when i simultaneously cannot actually come to terms with having ever left at all.

plus, you know. spoons. there’s never enough of them to go around.

sigh. anyway.

today is now April 1st, 2020: day 8 of my workplace-advised self-quarantine after a coworker somewhere in my office building tested positive for COVID-19. it’d be great if with this post today were to be day 1 of socially un-distancing myself from ace communities, but we’ll see…. fingers crossed.

to be continued…

YouTuber and Blogger, Vesper is an American expat currently living in Japan.


  • Sara K.

    There is much in this post which is resonating with me. I’m also in the process of – I’m not planning to *leave* the ace scene completely, but I am trying to adjust my relationship to it. But like you, whatever need I have for ace communities now is different than it was in the past.

    I never really felt that I fit into the extrovert/introvert dichotomy (no, even the label ‘ambivert’ doesn’t feel like a fit for me). Various quizzes generally label me as ‘extrovert’ because I tend to gain, not drain, energy in social interactions, but to me that energizing effect is like refined sugar – I might consciously or subconsciously seek it, but it’s not a fundamental need, I can live without refined sugar. So even though I have a different social disposition from you, I’ve also been nonplussed by how the current reduction in social interaction, though unwelcome, doesn’t feel like I’m not getting a need met in the way that many people are framing it.

    I’m glad you wrote this and submitted it to the carnival.

  • aceadmiral

    As a confession upfront: I’m not 100% sure I understand the entirety of this post, so if I’m off base, please feel free to disregard.

    So, as someone who has left the community and come back, once completely and several times to a partial extent, I completely resonate with and support how you feel. I think it’s really important to constantly assess relationships, including with communities or organizations, and make sure you’re still having your needs met and feel like you’re meeting [their] needs. However, as specifically concerns communities, and the idea that humans have a fundamental need for social connection, I really do think there’s truth in that statement–not necessarily emotional truth, but practical truth. Like, I think the pandemic has really highlighted a lot of social connections and interdependencies that are maybe not always obvious. In addition to the fact that I don’t grow food and can’t make clothes and all those specialized skills, there is the basic fact that I need everyone around me, especially people I don’t have a personal connection to (bc those people I do know are being browbeaten by me), to make prosocial decisions, like actually social distancing, staying home if they’re sick, not breaking quarantines, not hoarding food and supplies, etc. And that’s what keeps bringing me back–I can’t do it alone. It’s not particularly because the community is meeting all my needs (currently meeting: almost none), and it’s not because I have nothing but nice things to say about the community, because as nearly a decade of evidence clearly shows, I can’t seem to stop finding things to criticize. But, like, isn’t criticism healthy? Isn’t me prying open the spaces I would have needed and that others need a better use of my time than playing that 10,000th game of minesweeper? I dunno, I know my monomania on the subject of the philosophy of What Are We Even Doing Here is tiresome, but I also think that anything you decide you can give–especially rants!–is welcome and constructive and worth it.

    • Vesper H.

      …damnit, i knew i should have included a second reference with regards to the whole “fundamentally social beings” thing! i’m pretty sure that that’s where things may have gotten a bit confusing?

      when it comes to the idea that humans are “stronger together”, that we are reliant on our connections with others in the form of families, communities, societies not only to survive but to thrive—i have no qualm with those kinds of assertions. that’s more than a matter of practicality, imho. i don’t think we’d even be where we are today as a species if it weren’t for the social connections that humanity as a whole makes. those kinds of generalized assertions are different from the assertions that i’ve seen many people making with regards to “social distancing” and wasn’t what i was talking about in the OP.

      there’s a lot of criticism of the term “social distancing” from the angle of isolation (which isn’t even what social distancing is, but people forget that) being inherently detrimental to a person’s health. and you know, whatever. i’m sure there’s some truth in that for a lot of people and there is certainly research to back that assertion up. however, it seems to me like a lot of criticism of “social distancing” treats the act of doing so as if it were inherently a threat to a person’s sanity; as if being able to be healthy (if not even healthier for some people) while social distancing is an oxymoron… and i feel like the underlying reason for society as a whole’s negative attitude towards being alone is a consequence of the fundamentalist idea that humans are “social beings” / “social by nature”. and you know, it’s so easy for some to take that a step further with regards to humans’ ‘fundamental need’ for touch, physical intimacy, sex, etc.

      as a socially anxious introvert, that whole thing feels similar to how i feel as someone who is ace when people make absolutist statements about human sexuality that erase all kinds of things and people, including asexuality. sigh!

      anyway, that rant aside…! i certainly do appreciate your philosophical, existential monomania and your supportive words. thanks.

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