Social and physical distancing has been implemented across the planet as COVID-19 ravages humanity. Governments have told us to keep our distance from other people in a bid to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
However, the thought of not contacting other people is naturally daunting from an evolutionary standpoint as it goes against our natural instincts, researchers have stated.
Humans, like all other primates, are incredibly social creatures who have relied on each other to get this far.
There have been many evolutionary benefits to socialising which has helped humanity succeed as a species, including a greater reproduction pool, caregiving, and strength in numbers.
Isabelle Catherine Winder, lecturer in zoology, and Vivien Shaw, lecturer in anatomy, both at the University of Bangor, have stated that this is why social distancing is particularly daunting.
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The duo wrote for The Conversation: “All this goes some way to explaining why being socially isolated can be so very uncomfortable for us. Modern humans are one of the most social species of all mammals.
“As we evolved since our split with chimpanzees, our brains have continued to expand. These increases seem to fit with even more intense reliance on community.
“Several of our distinctive features, including language and culture, suggest that modern humans are particularly dependent on social living.
“We have literally evolved to be social creatures, and it’s really no wonder so many of us find social distancing intimidating.”
However, many advents of the modern world such as technology allow us to remain connected while distant from one another.
The pair continued: “Humans’ intense sociability has evolved over a very long period of time to make us habitually able to maintain relationships with large numbers of people, and so improve our shared chances of survival.
“We have already evolved symbolic language and huge cultural and technological capacities.
“If we had not, we would have no way to live in our increasingly global society, where maintaining personal links to everyone we depend on is effectively impossible.
“Current social distancing measures are, in fact, all about physical distance. But today, physical distance doesn’t have to mean social isolation.
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“Our rich human history of managing social interaction in new ways suggests that we have a talent for adapting and innovating to compensate for difficulty.
“In the last 20 years, the explosion of mobile phones, the internet and social media has turned us into ‘super-communicators’.
“This is proof of our deep desire to be connected with each other.
“Our inner ape craves company, and in this time of physical distancing, these methods of staying in touch really come into their own.”
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