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  • 2020-05-06
  • Meghan Finnerty

Professor Podcast: Why "Social Distance" May Be the Wrong Term

Associate Professor of Sociology Kyle Green and an expert guest cover social distancing, grief, and COVID-19 in the latest installment of "Give Theory a Chance."

SUNY Brockport’s Kyle Green, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology, recently hosted a podcast about social distancing, grief, and the impact of COVID-19. Read the story behind his two podcasts, "Give Methods a Chance" and "Give Theory a Chance."

In his latest installment, Green invited Seth Abrutyn, an associate professor from the University of British Columbia, to discuss what sociology can add to ongoing COVID conversations.

Listen to five minutes on social distancing
Stream the full podcast

Kyle Green

5 Points by the Hosts

1. Sociology has a relevant voice in this time.

Conversations surrounding COVID are mostly focused on physical health or the economy, and sociology can be relevant to both of those topics. A sociologist can bring up relevant conversations from social sociology to topics of emotions and mental health during this pandemic. Those might include, for example, how isolation, living situations, and group dynamics shape an individual's mental health.

2. Social distance and physical distance are not interchangeable.

As we work to stop the spread of COVID-19 through physical distance, society is craving ways to maintain social ties. People should continue to connect with others. Sociology theorists would warn you to be careful about how socially distant you become.

3. It’s understandable that online events may not feel as satisfying.

Credible arguments support that online occasions or rituals can never fully reach the same value as in-person events. Abrutyn says it may be related to the smells, sounds, and body language that add to face-to-face experiences. That’s why you may find your weekly virtual happy hours providing you less and less satisfaction.

4. Grief over small things is human. No need to feel guilty.

People may be feeling panic or grief during this time. Often, we think of grief in terms of losing loved ones or relationships, but it can also be related to routines and objects. Both hosts noted that they have observed conversations regarding guilt because "others have it worse." However, complaining is human. A loss of routine or an event is still a loss.

5. Life will go on.

Green asked Abrutyn, "Is there anything hopeful or empowering from living in this time? Or is the contribution from sociology more explaining the doom and gloom?” Abrutyn explained that if you are examining a snapshot of sociology, this time period isn't looking good. But a historical perspective demonstrates a hopeful outlook: that life will go on. Humans have survived wars, famine, and tragedy. Regardless, the world continued on. “Waking up every morning is the best we can ask for as a person,” Abrutyn reminds us. He encourages people to value the relationships and moments that are in front of them.

Last Updated 5/6/20

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