While on the train commute home the other day, I chatted the entire ride with someone I worked with a few years ago. We are more acquaintances than friends. Even when we worked together we never socialised about anything outside of work. This train ride was more personal, and it felt good. It felt real. I discovered a bit more about him, his family, and his goals. He, in turn, discovered the same with me.
I felt a sense of accomplishment when getting off the train. A sense that something good had happened. I realised this is how I felt after every good conversation, how we all feel after a good conversation with someone.
The proliferation of digital communication has caused our world to be riddled with inconsistent conversation, meaningless memes, and other crap that doesn’t add value to our lives. Whether that communication is email, social media, or text message, society has become used to hiding behind these communication channels putting on a pseudo-image of themselves, rather than the real thing.
I know I have drifted every now and then over to the dark side of pseudoism, whereby I would rather hide behind a digital screen or a certain perception I gave on Facebook. I would rather send an email to a person who works on the same floor as me, or text a 3-page essay on my phone. It somehow felt safer to use digital communication.
I am a big fan of social media. It certainly adds another perspective to a relationship. But the digital aspect should only be an addition to the real-world relationship. It should not be the only means of communication – especially if the person is in the same office or house as you. Hell, digital communication should not be the sole medium if you are in the same city.
Invite said person for a coffee and talk. Talk about anything. You could even use the updates you’ve seen on Facebook as a conversation starter.
That conversation on the train ride home I mentioned earlier really helped me understand that the people here, right now, are the ones that matter. The people you can see, touch, hear, and interact with are the ones to put your energy into. They are the ones that will bring you through the tough times. They are the ones that you can experience life with.
Coffee, dinner, movies, concerts, good old barbeques in the backyard. Life experiences with people in the real world is where the action happens. And that is exactly where you need to be. To laugh, cry, argue, high-five, pinkie swear – whatever it is that will help you build the relationships around you.
Next time you are out with a friend, or friends, don’t worry about your phone. Ignore the Facebook notifications, or the Twitter alerts coming through. You have someone sitting right in front of you who can give you the interaction you want. The human interaction you need.
There is so much more benefit when having a real conversation with people. Body language, nuances in a joke, touch, even the surroundings add to the situation. Typing on the keyboard simply does not match up. And there is no way that it ever will.
The exception to this is ‘what about people on the other side of the world’. Well, that is also completely feasible, but it’s a completely different type of relationship. All you are communicating with is a bunch of sporadic social media updates (and maybe a few emails too).
No real conversation. No undertones. No experiences.
I’m not saying a digital relationship is a bad relationship. My family and lifelong friends are on the other side of the planet (literally). I am building new relationships through Facebook and Twitter that I hope will develop into longer term ones.
But at the end of the day, no relationship is complete until physical presence is obtained. No existing relationships will keep their meaning unless physical presence is maintained. It is sad. But that is human nature.
We are beings yearning for physical interaction.
Who is that someone that you have been meaning to contact for a while now? Pick up the phone, send a text, or send a Facebook message, and invite them out for a coffee and a chat.
[image: Flickr user Guian Bolisay]