Never before has there been a time when we were connected to each other as much as we are connected now. And yet, for all our connectivity, we are disconnected. (See: "Is Modern Life Making Us Lonely?"). Thanks to social media, we know about every mundane detail of our family and friends' lives, but still we are becoming more disconnected. It seems that knowing all these little day to day details gives us the false impression that we are keeping up with our relationships.
When I was growing up we didn't have social media, or even texting. When you wanted to see how someone was doing or what was new with them, you picked up the phone and called them or even wrote a letter. But now, before calling a friend we often text them first to see if it is a good time to call. We do this because we are trying to be considerate of their time. And with texting, we have the ability to check and see if we are interrupting. In theory it is a good idea. But what ends up happening is that we rely on texting (or social media) to keep up with our relationships and skip the phone calls all together. In spite of all of our connectedness, we are losing our true connection with each other.
I began thinking about this after calling a friend the other day, of course I texted her first to see if she could talk. ;) As we chatted on the phone, I noticed how good it was to actually talk with her. We covered a lot more than we would have through a series of texts. But as good as it was, I felt a little awkward chatting on the phone with her. I have grown so accustom to our text conversations that having a phone conversation felt odd. Do you ever feel this way with phone calls?
I have asked others about this and learned that the majority of us dislike talking on the phone. Not that long ago we couldn't wait until we were old enough to use the phone; now we dislike it. What changed in this short period of time? The answer? Text messaging and social media became part of our lives. Suddenly we have these other methods to communicate with and talking on the phone gets left behind.
It is more than only our methods of communication that is worth noting here. It is the way our methods of communication are changing how we connect that is worth our attention.
We have more ways than ever to connect and yet so many people feel lonely. Is this because our preferred methods of communication are now those methods that keep others at arm's length? Looking at the graph below makes one wonder if older adults are less lonely because they don't rely on social media and texting. The "lonely old lady" used to be the stereotype. In reality, the numbers don't support that stereotype.
It does not have to be this way and I am not saying that texting and social media are the devil. They aren't. In fact, when used with intention, social media and texting can be used to augment our relationships. But only if we use the information we learn from them to spawn face to face or over the phone conversations. Otherwise we are left with two dimensional relationships.
Using social media wisely can enable us to find friends outside of our little corner of the world. It has become a great way to find one's tribe. Thanks to social media, I have made some amazing friends around the world through the Yoga with Adriene community.
I don't want you to think for a second that I have this all figured out and have the perfect relationships, because I don't. I have let social media and texting become my main form of communication with my friends, and even with my siblings. But I want to reclaim my relationships and how I manage them.
Maybe we can do this together? Could your relationships use some offline connecting too?
TIME TO REEVALUATE AND SET A COURSE CORRECTION
So how do we change this and reconnect more with our relationships?
It starts with taking an honest look at what forms of communication you are using. Are you seeing family and friends face to face regularly? Are you calling them on the phone regularly?
Take a look at your phone bill. Is it all data and text messaging with a scant amount of calls? Nothing like being smacked in the face by the raw data.
Take a look also at how you are using your texting and social media. Are you use them to see how a friend is doing? Perhaps that conversation would be better had over the phone or on a walk together.
Is there a set time each week that you can set aside to call a friend or family member? How about a couple of hours on a set day every month, or every other week, or maybe even every week that you set aside for some face to face time. It could be meeting for some coffee or tea, going on a walk or a hike together, practicing yoga together, or sharing a meal. The important thing is to make the choice to pick something and start there. The only way to fix our disconnection with each other is to start connecting more by taking determined steps to reclaim that connection.