Too much technology can be hazardous to the soul

Today’s default to social media and digital communication is lame. Why? Because I’m lonely now. And I hope not to be three days from now.

I texted a few friends this morning. I also forwarded a New York Times piece to my book club and emailed my nephew with a dinner invitation. Then I got on Facebook and liked a few pictures and wished a couple of people a happy birthday.

I’ll wait now, maybe a full day or more, for replies. Which, c’mon, is a little dispiriting. The waiting part of it, I mean. As well as the faceless aspect of it.

Technology has pummeled societal etiquette, is destroying our language and penmanship and is contributing to devastating isolation and increased suicide rates. Sure, it has its good points, too. But some days, I wanna…..

I read “suicide is a crime of loneliness, and adulated people can be frighteningly alone” (The New Yorker). “Intelligence does not help in these circumstances; brilliance is almost always profoundly isolating.”

I miss the phone with the long cord you stretch into the closet for a heart-to-heart with your bestie. I miss knocking on a pal’s backdoor and meeting by the monkey bars. I miss my pre-Internet 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s’ friends. The kind I could meet up with when I was feeling especially glum or enthused, or when I had an idea that demanded airing. I wish I could see them or call them now. In real time.

But calling someone out of the blue feels borderline rude, a breach of understood communication etiquette. If I called a friend right now, she would inevitably ask, “what’s wrong?” And if something wasn’t wrong, she’d be a bit put off. Or, wait, who am I kidding? She wouldn’t even answer the phone; she’d let it go to voicemail where she could evaluate my need at her convenience.

I don’t think this is because I’m an annoying or uninteresting person. Or that my friends aren’t the good kind. I think it’s just the way we roll these days. I admit, I do the same thing; technology allows us to deal with people and their unpleasantries when it’s convenient. Which is great. But there are consequences.

“Communicating is only 10 percent words and 90 percent facial expression, body language, voice intonation, rhythm, and touch,” according to Psychology Today (February 16, 2018). “When messages are not shared in real time, are offered without knowing the availability of the recipient, and often hastily sent, the chances of unwanted outcomes mushroom.”

Who hasn’t experienced that about a million times?

A few weeks ago, I met a colleague for a little business, coffee and a walk. Ellen and I are both in creative fields and work alone most of the time. We lingered and commiserated on the topic of electronic communication. Why is it, people resist taking a call? Why is it clients don’t want to meet in person? When did everyone stop shooting the bull? (Do millennials, Gen X’s and Gen Z’s even know what this means?)

Maybe it’s just us, we thought. Obviously, emailing and texting are efficient. Our clients don’t need to know us, as long as they know and trust our work. And how cool is that we can work at home in our shorts or sweats, sans makeup, jewelry and shoes?

But at a point in our conversation, it became clear to Ellen and me how much we were enjoying – and had been desperately craving – simple human interaction. Before we went our separate ways, Ellen made me promise to write something about our conversation, the kind of conversation that allows one to muse, wonder and imagine with someone. Maybe appreciate the outdoors together.

(I couldn’t sell this as an op-ed, but I thought I’d post here because I would really like to hear other people’s opinions on the topic.)

It’s funny, because I’ve always considered myself an introvert. So it surprises me that I’m not relishing in all the me-time my still-new work arrangement affords me. But even as an introvert, I guess I want to feel my humanness. The occasional “no worries,” “indeed,” or thumbs-up emoticon doesn’t do it for me.

I wonder if Jesus were to return to earth in 2018 if He’d eat with a hand-held by his plate.

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