How do we connect with other people these days? Twitter? Facebook? Texting? Blogging?

June 28th, 2011

Let us say that you keep in touch with your friends through texting.  Through Facebook.  You tweet. Are these your friends or your clients, your customers? Most of the people in contact with you don’t know you at all.   And by know someone, I mean someone you would cross the street to help.  There isn’t a lot of that these days.  Most people who you ask for help are too busy doing their own thing.  Treasure those who will pick you up in Downey when your car breaks down and not ask what you were doing in Downey.

Okay, let’s go back here.  I’m blogging right now and I am sure that I have friends who read this blog, but our real friendship is when we get together and have an actual drink together, coffee, lunch, a swim.  It’s feeling that the person next to you is alive and breathing and complicated.   It’s being in the same physical space together that equals a friendship I think.  You have to see someone.  Email is shit for real communication.  It’s dangerous. Unless you’re asking someone to pick you up from the airport. Or chatting about nothing.

But all online relationships are avatar relationships.  You project the person you wish to project.

Reality is not like Facebook.  We don’t have thousands of friends.  Reality is not like Twitter.  Life doesn’t happen in sound bites.  Worthwhile conversations happen for a while, they’re tentative and odd, sometimes strained, they have stops and starts.  They aren’t neat the way letters march on a page.

If you want to have a relationship with someone, the question is how do they like to be communicated with?  When someone messages me on Facebook to say they have a manuscript they want me to look at, I think, really? You have to be kidding.

Someone texting me seems like a non-verbal kind of communication that feels about as friendly as a handshake.  I know some people text all the time, but I still say it’s no substitute for being in the same room, for touching skin, for smelling a person, knowing they breathe.

I suppose what we all look for is a common language or a common way of speaking that language.  But, we’ve lost something too.  Women used to quilt together and that involved long conversations.  There was a way of talking together.  Being together.  That time is over and gone.

If you disagree with me, imagine therapy happening by text or by Tweet.  It wouldn’t work.  Therapy at its best (although my blog readers know I’m no expert) happens because the therapist understands you and understanding requires presence.

Time vaporizes and we don’t have time to actually see each other these days, so we do the next best thing which may not be a good thing at all.  We give each other shards and pieces of ourselves, not a whole smile, but the picture of a smile.  Not a whole conversation, but the words at the end of a conversation, not our dreams but photos of what our dreams used to be or would be if we had the time to dream them.  Definitely not whole conversations laced with all the doubt and hesitation and love that a real conversation would have, but a slice of ourselves, a few words on paper or on a phone or in a blog that are the edge of what our conversation would be, if we have ever had time to meet, if we had time to really talk, to know each other, to listen.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I like the piece you’ve written here. I’m of mixed minds on the matter. I have spent hours, in the classroom but more profitably with friends and family–namely my text-savvy daughter, talking about just this matter. I agree with what you say about avatars and their partiality, and with what you say, too, about time and its pressures. But so much of this issue–connecting with people via FB or Twitter or blogs like this one–seems to be, for me at least, best understood as a quantity game. That’s what I’m inclined to say: that people make many more connections online than they do offline, and that makes it a win, in the sense that we meet more people that way. Which isn’t altogether good. But then there’s a poignancy, a poetry even, in the way you frame your final comments: I mean, I read your final few lines over again and kept thinking that it reminded me of an old essay I once read on the Romantic poet Shelley.

    • Thank you. It’s a case for dialogue. We struggle with our kids who are trying to train us to be in touch with them by Facebook and text. We still want to go camping.

  2. hay

  3. what r u doing


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