Getting Close

I see so many people in my world longing for a real connection. Though there are many ways in which technology purportedly makes our lives easier, it does not seem to help in making that connection. Conversely, it seems to have become a sort of crutch for the socially challenged, making it ever easier to dodge face to face or even real time communication.

Now I won’t deny the convenience of texting. It’s very useful, in certain situations. But it’s certainly not for serious conversations, or any communication with depth or subtlety. (Yes, you can use that phone to make calls, too. Really.)

If we consider that most communication is non-verbal, what happens when the non-verbal is non-existent? When we have only the written word to go on? For concise communications (See you at your place at 7) it works. For anything else, it’s a potential disaster.

Now that we have instant messaging, online dating, cyber sex and even virtual relationships, where does that leave us in our embodied lives? While it’s true that the speed of communication has shrunk the world, and made long distance connections considerably easier than even a few years ago, what does that say about the nature of our relationships?

From where I sit, it looks like people are lonelier than ever. Sitting in front of a monitor chatting with your virtual partner isn’t quite the same as sitting down to dinner with him/her. And as I watch people struggling to form and maintain real emotional intimacy in the here-and-now, I wonder if we’re losing something vital. And how we might get it back.

While I want to maintain contact with those I care about whose lives are at a physical distance from me, I also recognize there’s an equally strong feeling of emptiness that digital communication evokes within me.

As with so many things, perhaps it’s really a question of balance. If we can balance our virtual relationships with our proximal ones we may be able to experience the best of both worlds: satisfying, meaningful relationships with loved ones both far and near.