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You’re Not Going To Reach My Telephone….

Earlier this week, fellow blogger Gala Darling posted about a bunch of random and interesting commentary on life, but one of the things that jumped out at me was the recognition that many of us aren’t really all that old, yet we’re children of a different era. We grew up in a time when using the phone actually was a popular part of day-to-day life. Her blurb on the current state of indifference with which we view phone calls was funny, yet quite true.

It’s funny; the more accessible and inexpensive phone access becomes for most of us, the less inclined we are to use it. I remember racking up WAAAAAAY too many phone minutes with long-distance boyfriends and infatuations in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s, years where unlimited cell phone plans were rarely offered, and if they were, they were very expensive. These were the days when people were slowly forsaking their landlines, the annoying dial-up sound had been replaced by DSL and cable internet, and spending your cell minutes on someone was a valuable investment. Nobody spent time texting; instead, people sat having conversations over IM. (I can still recall my utter indignation at the idea of IM, though I spent much of my waking life using it. An angry “I can tell you’re multi-tasking me” would hopefully remind the person on the other end that talking to me was indeed worth a bit of undivided attention.)

I also remember 2002-2007 being years where a phone was permanently glued to my ear. Phones were tiny, if not yet smart, and everything was becoming more and more unlimited. I conducted more that one new in-depth friendship primarily via phone calls, and all of those people are still in my life today. I also sent myself back into memories of my teenage years, talking on my pink phone (yes, I did have my own room with my own phone, so I can’t say I had a terrible childhood. *lol*) until my arm would cramp and I’d have to pee, but I still wouldn’t want to hang up because there was more gossip to be had. On any given month, my unlimited Sprint plan would indicate I’d used between 3,500-6,500 minutes a month, for years.

These days, nobody has time anymore, and connecting with a friend means a series of impersonal texts. I empathise with Gala when she points out that nobody actually wants to have a conversation; the phone is becoming obsolete and real conversations are something that’s relegated to the face-to-face, because nobody wants to spend forever and ever typing out deep thoughts and feelings in 140 character blocks. It’s actually inefficient and time-consuming, except for the fact that you can do other things in between messages. Yet, if you know me, you know I text constantly..and so does virtually everyone else I know.

So, that leads me to my thought for the day: “Do we live in such a self-centred world where nobody is worth the luxury of undivided attention anymore, unless they happen to be within a 5 minute radius and can meet up for coffee?

Are we a generation of multi-tasking addicts that don’t have the time or interest in making real connections with fellow human beings? The more tools we’re given to connect, the more superficial we get about connection, and the less frequently people have interest in having meaningful conversations with other people. In my mind, this seems directly related to the sharp decline in the number of couples getting married, the number of people actually investing in relationships, particularly in large cities.

We’re not putting in the effort, and it’s something of which an entire generation is guilty. Yet, it’s a little sad. Sure, we may have been inefficient with sitting around hanging out and talking on the phone all the time back in the old days, but from my personal experience, the people I became close friends with were the ones with whom I took the time to converse. You can’t bond, discuss “What are your hopes and dreams and fears, and who are you, deep down inside?” while sending “Hey, how are you?” texts to friends, and unless you have the luxury of having enough time to schedule one-on-one coffee and dinner dates with all your friends (and if you’re like me, many of your friends don’t live anywhere near the same city as you do.), the end result is often a feeling of alienation. A million tools to connect at our disposal, and yet it’s easy to feel “We used to be close, and now I barely know you, because we never have time to catch up.”

For some people, it doesn’t matter. The superficial conversation via text or FB is enough to keep a friendship going. But, me, I’m an old-fashioned girl. I still write e-mails about my thoughts and feelings to old friends, or in attempts to get to know new ones better. I still send letters and cards in the mail with handwritten messages. I still step outside my bubble of “what’s going on in my life” to make time for those who are important to me, and I still expect that anyone who really likes me is going to consider me worth undivided attention.

Sadly, there just aren’t that many people who see things the same way. Rarely do my letters and e-mails get a response; phone calls are returned by a text or a FB message.

I suppose I’m a child of a different era. When it comes to friendships and relationships, I put in the effort, and expect the effort in return. In my mind, it’s just a way of saying, “No matter how busy life gets, you’re still important to me.”

It’s a pity that we’ve largely lost that aspect of our society, but we’ve also lost the genuine desire to connect with fellow human beings on a level that extends beyond the novelty, beyond the superficial, beyond the entertaining. Almost all of us have so many acquaintances and so few friends, something I remarked upon to a friend recently (via text!. *lol*) I think it’s because we don’t put in the effort, beyond, “Talking to you is awesome, as long as I can do it while I’m dong a bunch of other stuff.” And, thus, most of our conversations with others stay on a surface level, never get too deep, never leave you feeling that you’re maintaining close bonds with even your closest friends.

I’m not an “on-the-surface” kind of girl. I appreciate that The Guy I’m Currently Dating still has a 45 minute conversation with me before bedtime on nights we don’t see one another. We don’t always really “connect”, but sometimes we do, and for me, that’s the sort of thing that creates closeness and understanding. It is really an essential piece of every important relationship and long-lasting friendship that’s ever been a part of my life, and I don’t see myself requiring that level of emotional intimacy less simply because the ways in which we communicate with one another makes that difficult to achieve.

It’s a shame most of the world can’t, or won’t, slow down enough to see who and what is actually around them, to have friendships that go beyond the surface, to actually think and feel and share. Maybe I’m simply one of a dying breed, an antiquated romantic with a greater interest in and need for emotional and intellectual connection than most people I meet these days, but I do think so many people are missing out on so much, living this fast-paced life that’s well-suited to always skim the surface of things.

You only get one life. Why not invest in a little more love, a little more inspiration, and a little more honest connection and communication with those in your life? I think my friends deserve more from me than abbreviations and “Talking to you about pleasantries while on my way to do something more interesting”, and I can’t imagine myself ever having a relationship with the type of person who believes that short text messages mean “We talk on a daily basis.”

I have a few friends who, like myself, seem disinterested in catching up on pleasantries and more interested in actually forging connected relationships, and make a valiant effort to do so via text messaging. However, the medium just isn’t suited to the verbose, people who have a lot to say, people who want to say anything of substance. Messages are delivered out of order, or completely lost, or put on time delay…and it takes ages to type out multiple responses. Sometimes, the results are amusing…you’ll get a reply to one thing that’s unrelated, and therefore completely inappropriate, and very funny. Other times, this same problem can cause huge misunderstandings.

No, text messaging is not a substitute for picking up the phone (when you want to have a conversation with someone) or sending an e-mail (when you want to engage in the exchange of thoughts, ideas, and feelings in some manner of depth.). It’s great for finding out where your friends are, meeting up at the right time, letting someone know you’re stuck in traffic, or just saying “Hi, thinking of you”. But the fact that so many of us use it for absolutely everything means that actually communication is falling by the wayside.

I am, at heart, and old soul. And, the older my body gets, the older my soul becomes..the less I relate to the disconnectedness that defines our society. I’m going to be one grumpy, bitter old lady in 50 years. ;)

The 1990′s called. It said to pick up your damn phone. :P

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