One of the biggest problems with social distancing in the COVID-era is the extreme, unrelenting boredom that comes with it. There are simply too many hours in a day to actually keep oneself completely occupied. Movies and TV shows are the things that are supposed to keep us from feeling completely empty for the majority of the day. Enter Netflix’s “Social Distance,” a show dedicated to reminding the audience how bored they actually are. 

“Social Distance” is an anthology series centered around the “real lives” of people just as social distancing began in the U.S. and states began shutting down. Without physically traveling from location to location, the main plot is centered on social media, and most of the show’s dialogue happens between characters on Zoom. “Social Distance” is completely different from any show before, and it’s a perfect encapsulation of 2020’s absurdity. Yet, despite its originality, the show has a critical weakness: It is extremely boring. 

Since none of the characters are allowed to leave their homes, every scene in an episode feels the exact same. Traveling from living room to bedroom to office every five minutes makes paying serious attention to the show a chore at best. In addition, social media and Zoom meetings make the show feel incredibly lifeless. Instead of dynamic conversations shot from multiple angles, each shot between two conversing characters in “Social Distance” is always the same: face forward, eyes looking into the camera. Also, none of the characters are allowed to go out and actually do things. Instead, things happen to them. In the very first episode of the show, our main character Ike (Mike Cotler, “Jessica Jones”) struggles with loneliness as his barber shop closes and he gets canceled on Instagram. Without any action or even a sense of movement, each of the stories in “Social Distance” feels crushingly lethargic. The audience isn’t on their toes wondering what the heroes will do next. Instead, their eyes are glazing over watching yet another bad thing happen to the heroes.

Perhaps the worst thing about “Social Distance” is what it says about society and technology. Technology is in each and every scene of  the show. Without the nine-to-five to give our characters a sense of purpose, iPhones and Instagram have swooped in to fill the void. In that way, “Social Distance” is an oddly dystopian show. A common struggle of each episode is how difficult it is to be truly alone with yourself. Being alone means thinking about your flaws, or perhaps learning to live with others stepping inside personal boundaries. But instead of taking time for self-reflection, many of the characters instead choose to prioritize their social media image, or try to remember the “good ol’ days” before the pandemic. In that way, not only is the show profoundly boring, it is also hollow.

Ultimately, having a fictional show centered around people’s “real lives” during quarantine is just a bad idea. Without movement and genuine conversation, each episode of “Social Distancing” has no wind in its sails to keep floating and absolutely no reason for the audience to be invested. In addition, the ubiquity of technology and social media makes the show rather dark and sad at times. A show in the COVID-era should be the exact opposite of “Social Distancing.” It should be far-fetched, extremely exciting and with as few Zoom meetings as possible. In a world where people want nothing more than to escape their homes, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they want shows to be a little more escapist as well.

Daily Arts Writer Joshua Thomas can be reached at realjt@umich.edu

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