“We expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. ”
– Sherry Turkle
As a people, we have lost the fundamental instinct that we will just be there for each other. We talk less and less with each other face-to-face and then question why trust is at an all-time low. We now begin to wonder what it means to be patient because we no longer know how to.
The velocity of virtual connections has found its way into our real life. We demand immediacy and look constantly for the ENTER button in all our interactions, if not within conversations, so we can have our say whenever we have to. We do not let others complete their sentences because we are afraid we will forget what we wanted to say. When people digress, we get irritable. We have become snappier, harder to please, and more demanding of instant gratification than ever before.
Ironically, the smarter we get with technology (that is supposed to help us connect better and in more ways), the dumber we get with people. Social media constantly wants to know “what’s on your mind?”. I doubt many of us have an answer truly worth beginning a conversation for. To be asked simple, yet thought-provoking questions demands a level of self-revelation, for which we need to know what we think and feel, and not many of us are truly aware of that anymore. What you ate for dinner, your opinion of the newest Box Office blockbuster, your whine about the weather – is not you. It is your opinion. And God knows the networks have more than enough of those.
Our abuse of technology is killing something fundamental within us: the very real human capacity for patience, connection, and compassion. What once fed us, entertained us, assisted us, now consumes and owns us.
Connecting with others must go beyond logging in and updating a status. Else, we are doomed to an emotionally vapid future with each other. The fact is, we are getting used to living and being happy with less. We don’t expect to be heard, or paid attention to. We’re OK being ignored. We are shortchanging ourselves on meaningful interactions, cheating each other with vacuous, trite chitchat. And we are the perpetrators unto ourselves. The day is not far when we do away with the entire practice of relationships with people altogether. I hear this all the time: too much drama. Too many expectations. Too little ‘me’ time. I believe these are new-age synonyms for “I’d rather be home playing a video game or hanging out on Twitter.”
Our never-turned-off-never-leave-home-without-it devices ensure that we are never left alone to deal with the strangers we have become to ourselves. Or with life. Or with anyone whose handle we don’t know. We have gone from “I think, therefore I am” to “I login, therefore I exist”. The truth is, we stay constantly connected to stay less lonely. But if you cannot be alone, you WILL be lonely, no matter how many networks you’re on.
We now use technology as a means of self-definition. What you read, watch, listen to-you share- as a window to knowing you as a person. In essence, we are what we subscribe to – be it music, videos, articles, PoVs, Facebook likes, Google+ adds, or Twitter follows. But who are YOU? Are you simply the sum of your likes and retweets? Are you only a second-hand collage; an amalgamation of other people’s thoughts, words, ideas and creativity? What happened to you? Where did you disappear in the melee?
In a virtual, social media context, the word ‘share’ loses all sense of meaning and proportion. This culture of “sharing” has, in fact, made us poorer than ever before. We give it all away and are left with nothing at the end of the day. This is NOT sharing. This is grappling. In our haste to ‘share’, we leave out an essential part of ourselves. The part that considers, rationalizes, gauges, experiences, and stays. If you’re defined by what and how much you share, then you want to share constantly in order to feel more connected to…? Yes. Yourself.
Pursuing the need to ‘connect’ will render you further from that sometimes necessary solitude and your ability to be at peace with yourself. We increasingly lack the ability to survive in solitude and turn constantly to others to fill the void. When we treat others as “void fillers”, we miss out on experiencing them for who they are and the cycle of knowing yet not knowing keeps turning.
I miss patience. I miss the comfort of solitude. I miss my own silence. And I miss who I was before Twitter made me exist in this realm.
The next time you reach for the phone to tweet about what you’re eating, for example – stop. Instead, eat. Do just that. Enjoy your meal. If it’s a bitch of a hot day for you, it’s a bitch of a hot day for everyone else in your city. Unless you have something incredibly fascinating to say about heat, restrain from stating the obvious. If you think of someone out of the blue, do what you did a few years ago- pick up the phone on impulse and call them. These days we are likely to text or email them, or poke the crap out of them on Facebook. That worked well back then, and it will still work now. If you’re distressed, unhappy or aggrieved – call a friend. Talk to someone. Like, a REAL someone. Go meet them for coffee. Take a book.
We need to start talking to each other again; looking at each other’s faces again. We need to remember what people we love feel like, and smell like. We need to remember the sound of their voice or the way their pupils dilate, their smile and their beautiful hands. In our urgency to innovate and discover newer, better, faster ways to connect, we are forgetting to communicate. And that doesn’t need an account and password. It just needs us to be present.
So, call me sometime.