You know the kind. The kind that you see sitting across from each other at the restaurant with so so food, soup, pie and dated décor? The kind not saying a word.
I don’t mean silence is bad. I think sitting sweetly silent with someone is magical.
I mean the distant silent. The kind you half swear not to be and half fear you will be someday. The kind you wonder how they every got together in the first place. The kind that never seem to smile. The kind that when they do talk it is about the weather, dinner options, picking up cat food or the weather again.
We just don’t talk anymore.
And we don’t do we?
I mean we talk to each other but not REALLY talk to each other. And we are doing it together. All of us, everywhere, are collectively not talking together.
Not to bring you down in the middle of the week. (Too late Carrie) I am just observing something going on with myself, my friends, my work colleges, construction workers, carnies, soccor moms, corporate execs, you know, people in general.
We don’t talk. We text.
And we are on our phones constantly. All. The. Time.
If we aren’t texting, we are emailing, or surfing the web or playing a game.
I saying texting is bad? No. Is email bad? Probably not. Is triumphantly taking down zombies with plants bad? Definitely not.
Is being so absorbed in our phone that we miss out on not only what is happening but who is happening around us bad?
Again, I don’t want to bring everybody down. (Still too late Carrie) I am just wondering here, so please wonder with me.
Why are we doing it? What do we get out of it?
More time? I don’t know, I think we live in a culture with a disease called busyness.
The ability to connect more with loved ones? Yes, this one is cool. I can say I love you to my mom. (Hi Mom! Yes, my mom texts) We can do facetime to distant relatives and send family photos to one another. But I must admit, I read some of the love letters that the average Joe wrote to average Jane in the 1800’s and compare it to an “ I luv u” text of today and find myself daydreaming of waist coats and pantaloons.
Temporary escape? This is handy. If we need a small “time out” from our day we can escape into our phones. You can plan a fake vacation or look up Halloween costume ideas for next year in seconds.
Quick upper? Yes, I think a lot of us do this. I don’t know how to handle the fight I had with my boyfriend or the impending deadline at work so I am going to feel better about myself by totally rocking candy crush right now.
Avoidance? I don’t want to talk to my neighbor so I will check in with the news instead. I lose something though, I never really get to know my neighbor.
More opportunities to know more things? This is true. But again, we lose something. The TV show “How I Met your Mother” summed it up perfectly. It showed the main characters several years ago arguing about what the most consumed food is. Fast forward to present and they are all on their phones. Someone calming says “bread.” Today the rousing debate takes a back seat to the all knowing Google.
It is not all bad. I love having a smart phone.
I have no need for a GPS. I can know what the weather will be like in 5 days anywhere in the world. I can look stuff up on Wikipedia. If I want to know what a celebrity is thinking I can look it up on Twitter. If I want to know what my friend from high’s schools kid looks like I can look on facebook. If I want to know what is happening in Nepal I check out BBC news. It I want to know how many calories I burned I turn on my run app. If I want to feel bad about the state of my home I look up pictures on pinterest of immaculate crafty storage units that look amazing and are made out of q tips and junk mail. And if none are satisfying I ask Siri (who has VERY selective hearing) to play music and she does. Most of the time…
Smart phones make us smarter.
But do they make us better?
Something is bugging me. Something about me is bugging me. And it has to do with talking and connecting and being present with my surroundings. Mostly though, it has to do with listening.
I used to be much better at it.
I used to sit with someone and look in their eyes and want to hear what they had to say. I still do that with my inner circle. But I used to be much better at it with people who were not in my inner circle.
Now I find myself wanting to look something up while someone is talking or go on to the next part of the conversation or interject my thoughts or insert my opinion or play a stupid game more that I want to give the person in front of me my undivided attention.
And the person I am talking to I am sure notices this. They are probably thinking, “Hello! Can you hear me? Is this thing on? Testing one two three...”
Maybe not. Maybe all they are thinking is that they can’t wait to get home to check out the latest Game of Thrones episode.
All I know is listening is important. It is the first step toward intimacy. Have you ever had someone that you have known for years say something revealing about themselves to someone else and you were standing right there and you turned to them and said, “You never told me that.” Or “ I never knew that.” And the person answers back, “ I told you this", or "You never asked.”
I used to be better at this. I used to love to talk with people about anything or everything. I used to LOVE to talk to people about the stuff that really mattered, the important things. The things we live for and long for and love for.
The things Google can’t tell us.
So lovely readers please hold me accountable. I am going to start putting away my phone when there are people around me. I want to do with this with my friends. My acquaintances. With strangers. People in the grocery store. People that live next door. People that are lot like me and people that are nothing like me.
I want to learn to listen again. And maybe then we can talk. REALLY talk.
And mom, if you are reading this, I love you and will call you soon.