“We are all connected!” Sure we know that! And it was verified for us in the ‘90’s when the AT&T (remember them?) NY Telephone Company adopted that phrase as its slogan. In fact, lots of companies have been spinning slogans and making money reminding us just how connected we are. There are many products and services out there, constantly brought to our attention, that deliver the technology to help us get connected, feel connected, and stay connected.
BUT does it? Does all the technology really connect us better? More? Well certainly it facilitates us “reaching out” to each other. But does the plethora of platforms actually keep us from really connecting? I think it does. Skype® and FaceTime® to name a few services make it possible for us to “see” each other even when we are meeting someone “face to face” who is geographically far away. It has drastically changed my perception of distance. My daughter is currently studying abroad, but with video connections I can stay in touch fairly easily and be connected not only to what is going on in her life, but to her struggles and her feelings, even with the time difference. When we can both fit it into our respective busy schedules! The “distance” has been dramatically shortened from when her sister did that same program 10 years ago. In 2004 we struggled to find her a cell phone that would work in Italy to provide us with a way to connect to her that did not cost more than the tuition. All this changed, in just in 10 years. Travel before cell phones! How did we do it? How did our loved ones find us? From the post card that arrived after we had come back!
DOESN’T EVERYONE HAVE A BLOG? Thank Goodness for the Internet – that wonderful place where we can verify any fact, locate any city, find old friends and connect to the world. I can read about Gen X’S experiences abroad, their opinion about the meal they ate last night (complete with photos), their reviews of movies and books, see the outfit they wore to the club last night, count their friends. But are they actually talking to each other? Or their boy/girlfriends? I actually heard that one blog writer told a friend who called her (Yes! Not just texted some abbreviations at her, CALLED HER) to see how she was doing and ask if she was still homesick – and her reply?–“you can read about it in my blog”. Where is the dialogue? Where is the exchange of emotion and the connection and friendship that follows from that?
NOT JUST ANOTHER BLAH, BLAH, (I mean) BLOG
Don’t get me wrong. Blogging is great. So much wonderful content out there that finally has been given a platform! And readers. But we need to take it back a step and explain that a monologue on your experiences, even if it relates some of your feelings and struggles, is not the same as connecting with someone and sharing a dialogue or exchange which finds the commonality of the experiences.
I guess listening is old fashioned. But without listening we will never connect. We will never be able to be truly empathetic – because the connection to a written word, or even a movie about a situation is not the same as an in person, face-to-face dialogue about something – really about anything – even the weather. Face it, we people in the North have been exchanging comments with each other all winter about the cold – and the potholes – and it is with a sense of camaraderie that we bundled up and kept shoveling!
HAVE WE LOST OUR ABILITY TO HOLD CONVERSATIONS?
How can you figure out what someone is thinking or feeling by just a few letters and a smiley face? If someone (like a potential love interest) doesn’t answer your text – can you really conclude s/he didn’t like you? Not accurately really – maybe s/he could not think of a reply (not really feeling the smiley face). Or maybe there is a “no cell phone” policy at work. Or maybe they were traveling. Or Heaven Forbid – the cell phone was not charged or lost data, or didn’t get the message… Too much margin for error. And even if they reply, how can you gauge their interest from a “Whatup?” Sure, Snap Chat is a fun way to reach out and touch someone you might not otherwise connect with — but it is just the first step. We have to re-learn the skill of being present with each other and talking and connecting. Certainly watching TV together or a video on YouTube doesn’t give you much chance to exchange meaningful dialogue.
What is your thread count of people? I mean real connections –Not how many likes on Facebook or followers on Twitter or connections on LinkedIn. How many people can you count on when bad things happen? And how many people would worry if they didn’t hear from you? Start one connection at a time to listen and dialogue. Life is richer for the people we know and love but you need to consciously build and maintain connections.
Remember the good old days when people ate dinner together and everyone chatted and laughed and no one checked their text messages? We have to bring that back. I am focusing this week on being really present for every encounter with every human I meet. Really listening, really responding. Dropping what I am doing and focusing on that person, their wants and needs, their emotions, our relationship. I know it is old fashioned, but this week I am listening. I want to connect the dots and come up with a complete picture of each person I know, the lines filled in with my respect.