Physical Distancing is NOT Social Distancing
In the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we have heard extensively that we need to practice “social distancing.” In the context of the pandemic, the phrase “social distancing” has been used to imply not spending time in Physical proximity to other people in order to protect ourselves from transmission and infection. Here at Konversai, we absolutely agree to avoiding physical proximity in order to stay safe in the current climate. However, we do not believe that we should be practicing “social distancing.” We believe that this term is inaccurate when what is really meant is “physical distancing.”
Not Infected but Affected
As of the writing of this post, there have been 857,850 cases of coronavirus, 42,130 deaths, and 177,141 recoveries. While significant, these numbers pale in comparison to the nearly every single human on the planet whose lives have been indirectly impacted by the pandemic even if they themselves were not infected.
As we discussed in our last post, nearly 300 million students worldwide were home from school. That number has since increased to over 849.4 million as more schools, colleges, and universities close. What’s more, millions of adults are not going into work. If they are lucky, they can work from home, using platforms like Zoom for virtual meetings. However, many employees and independent workers who rely on direct interaction with people, including food service employees, drivers, musicians, photographers, personal trainers, fitness instructors, extracurricular program teachers, beauticians, and shopkeepers, find themselves out of work as stores and restaurants are closing, shows and gigs are getting cancelled, and people are staying home. These same workers are currently struggling to find other employment and to pay their bills, the consequences of which may be longer lasting than infection from the virus, according to the Independent article “Coronavirus will bankrupt more people than it kills — and that’s the real global emergency.”
Then there are those who may not be drastically affected economically—at least in the immediate term—but are still experiencing boredom, loneliness, and the effects of being at home almost all day if not all day. Humans are social beings who depend on relationships with others in order to survive and thrive. Research has found that loneliness and isolation is twice as harmful as obesity to physical and mental health and that effects of lack of meaningful social connection are comparable to those of smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder. Other effects of isolation include depression, poor sleep quality, cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function, and weak immunity. What’s more, staying inside too much deprives us of the positive effects of sunlight and can be associated with moodiness, anxiety, restlessness, trouble sleeping, fatigue, poor immunity, and bone and muscle weakness. According to a study of 1092 US adults, 29% of those surveyed said their emotional wellbeing has taken a hit in the past week.
Not all of us are infected, but all of us are affected.
Now more than ever, we need to be spending more time together, not less. We need to embrace community and togetherness. We should not be practicing social distancing. No, this does not mean congregating together in the same physical space and risk getting each other sick. By all means, for the time-being we must continue physical distancing. At the same time, we must continue interacting and engaging with one another, even if not in the ways to which we are accustomed. All of us—no matter our age, location, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status—have a common enemy in the coronavirus, and the only way we can combat it is together.
Video platforms and other technology will never fully replicate the experience of actually being in the same physical space as another person. But right now, these are some of our biggest allies. We can use technology to build community and to support one another through this rough time. This is exactly what Konversai is doing.
Konversai, a company based in New York City and San Jose, California, is an online global knowledge marketplace that is addressing the interrelated issues of disruptions to learning, earning, and social interaction. Currently with over 200,000 users from all around the world, the platform connects knowledge providers with knowledge seekers on any topic of interest through live video conversations. Sessions take place at times that are mutually convenient for all users involved, and you can do them from the comfort of your home, your office, or anywhere you have a reliable Internet connection. Knowledge providers can charge as much as they want for their sessions. They also have the option of holding sessions for free or donating their earnings to a charity of their choice. Meanwhile, knowledge seekers can enjoy time with an actual human being on exactly what they’re looking to learn on a particular topic. All users are encouraged to be both knowledge providers and knowledge seekers on any and as many topics as they wish, no matter how seemingly commonplace or obscure. One of Konversai’s core premises is that no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your life circumstances are, you have something of value to offer that can benefit someone else, whether they live down the street or across the world. The company’s mission is three-fold: to democratize knowledge, put the human connection back into the heart of technology, and make the world better by enabling meaningful and authentic conversations that can enrich and improve people’s lives—something we all need regardless of whether there’s a global pandemic.
Whether you’re looking to learn, earn, or simply connect with others, Konversai works. Sarah Allmon is a middle school choir teacher in Grand Rapids, Michigan who has been offering sessions in singing, dance, meditation, and Spanish for the past 3 years. While schools have been closed and Sarah is not currently working, she has been teaching individual and group dance fitness classes on Konversai. She says of the experience, “Konversai has been such a great resource for me during this time of [physical] distancing. Not only has it provided a stable revenue stream, but it has also allowed me to continue interacting with friends while at home. It’s been my positive distraction and lets me continue teaching while my school is temporarily closed. If you have a passion for teaching or want to learn something new, come check out this platform!” According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans put out by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17 need at least one hour of physical activity a day, and adults need even more. Sessions with Sarah or any of the hundreds of other personal trainers and fitness instructors on Konversai give users a way to maintain their physical fitness while they are unable to leave their house to go to the gym.
Another active user works in food services and has been out of work the past couple of weeks. He has been offering sessions on landscaping and botany—two of his biggest passions—on Konversai in order to stay financially afloat. He says, “Konversai has given me confidence. It has exposed me to a new way of learning and teaching and has shown me that I do have something of value to offer others and that I can be successful.”
Over the next several weeks, Konversai is launching a series of campaigns across multiple categories—including personal training and physical fitness, yoga, cooking, music, technology, arts and crafts, and academics—in an effort to provide employment, enable social interaction, and help our global community in these times of uncertainty. As part of these campaigns, Konversai is for the first time ever allowing group sessions in addition to one-on-one sessions. So if there’s an activity you would like to pursue with family or friends, you can do it on Konversai. Furthermore, the first person to book a session each week with the featured providers gets a free session. Between now and May 19, 2020, Konversai will not be charging any transaction fees. If you are interested in being featured in one of our upcoming campaigns, you can email us at [email protected]
Konversai also has users offering 30 minutes of their time simply to connect with others who might be experiencing loneliness or anxiety during their time in isolation. We don’t have to be limited to our existing personal network in order to make meaningful connections. Konversai opens the whole world to you and allows us all to support one another during these stressful times.
If you are not already on Konversai, this is the time to be. It is a tool that can help anybody physically, mentally, emotionally, and economically. We welcome anyone to join Konversai as a safe space to share your knowledge, skills, and experiences on any topic, to learn something new, or to connect with others. Whatever your needs are, Konversai is here for you. To all our existing users, we encourage you to support one another during this time. If we can assist in any way, reach out at any time.
From all your friends at Konversai, stay safe and healthy.
By Pavita Singh
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