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Substituting Technology for Connection: Why We’re Lonely

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I have 12 different ways to contact people. Yet I feel starved for connection.

I know more people than I have ever known. Yet I feel lonelier than I have ever felt.

My social interactions are feeling less and less satisfying. I feel anxious when real topics are discussed in person.  And although I have many incredible friends, my friendships feel shallow.

At first, I thought it was because I had a baby. And in part, my feeling of isolation does naturally stem from having a baby that refuses to nap on any normal schedule. But this thirst for connection started before I had her. It started years ago.

When I was a teenager, my friends and I spent hours talking about life on the phone. My parents even installed a separate line for me. Remember when you actually had to share a family phone?

Now I find out about people’s lives through words displayed on a space gadget I can hold in my hand.

I see tiny pictures of babies, but rarely hear the joy in my friends’ voices after they see that first smile. I learn about friends’ tragedies through scrolling words and emoticons, but don’t get to hug them or wipe away their tears.

I thirst for those moments – for real life. I thirst for sound of laughter from a joke I just told, instead of wondering if anyone enjoyed the funny video I posted into the abyss. I crave the anxiousness and spontaneity of a face-to-face fight with a friend, where we mouth off at each other instead of deciphering carefully worded passive aggressive texts.

I miss long phone calls, where you can hear about someone’s life without having to use a scroll bar. I miss casual conversationa with strangers in a coffee line. Now everyone just stares at devices.

I feel a hole in my heart where my friendships used to go. I love my friends. But we are all getting complacent. We are allowing information about each other to substitute for real connection with each other.

I’m not saying that social media is all bad or that I don’t love keeping in contact with friends who live far away. I am saying that I’m tired of substituting words on a screen for real life.

I’m as guilty as the next person for this complacency. We get lazy. It’s a quick fix – like eating a stale M&M you found in the car when you’re really craving a chocolate soufflé.

We read about our friends while standing in line, pooping, or waiting for the light to change. We feel sort of connected. It satisfies us enough that maybe we don’t take the initiative to schedule a dinner, make a phone call, or drop by someone’s house.

And the more we get used to substituting technology for real life, the stranger and stranger actual contact starts to feel. Deep connection becomes the exception, not the norm.

We share bad news with a text because it’s easier to process the feeling alone than to be seen and comforted. We worry we’ll make that friend uncomfortable, burden them, or disturb them when they’re busy.

Remember when it was ok to just call someone without texting first?  Now I’ve had friends for years without ever hearing their voice on the telephone. Why do we even call it a phone anymore, considering how rarely we actually talk on it?

We are all so used to accepting the stale M&Ms that we have all forgotten what we’re missing.

We are missing out on seeing and loving the real unedited versions of each other.  We are missing out on the joys of celebrating with each other, laughing, and being spontaneous. We are missing out on creating memories with each other that are only ours, not shared with 439 other “friends.”

I’m calling bullshit on all of it.

I’m starting a new habit for myself and I hope that I can inspire you to do the same.  The next time I’m lonely, depressed, or anxious, I’m going to make a date with someone and tell them about it. When my daughter does something insanely cute, I’m going to call someone to share the celebration, instead of working to capture the perfect video for Facebook.

If I’m thirsty for connection, it’s no one’s fault but my own. Yes, I’m caught up in society’s technology wave, but I do know how to swim. I’m tired of living through a 6-inch device. I’m sick of feeling alone when I know so many people.

It’s time we all stop accepting the stale M&M’s. It’s time we all challenge each other to create the lives and the friendships that we are craving.

So to all of my friends – lookout! I’m going to start calling you. Yes, you. I’m going to pick up the phone and call you. And I’m not going to have a reason for it, other than to hear about your life and tell you about mine.

I’m going to schedule more time with you. It may not always be easy. I may have to reschedule because my daughter missed a nap or is sick. But I will persist. Because I believe that sharing real connection is as important to a healthy and happy life as breathing.

“I’m guilty too of being part of this machine. This digital world where we are heard and not seen, where we type as we talk and we read as we chat, where we spend hours together without making eye contact. Don’t give in to a life where you follow the hype. Give people your love. Don’t give them your like.” –From Look Up, the incredibly profound spoken word video poem about the loneliness that social media disconnectedness is causing in society. This video inspired my blog post. If you haven’t seen it, watch it now.

 

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