I read an article today about people who were born before 1985, and how these people will be the last to know what life was like both before and after the internet. It was not a commentary on the internet being bad or anything like that. It is just that life after the interest is different than what it used to be. This got me thinking about life before texting.
I have frequent conversations with my friend, Terry, about different happenings in this world, specifically in large cities in America, where common sense and appreciation for human life seem to be lacking. We discuss how the cycle can never be broken until a generation is taught and believes that all life has value and this generation lives in such a way that they relay this message to their children. I’m not going to make a leap and blame that on the internet, but I do think that the age in which we live makes it more difficult to have personal relationships.
It is easy to be anonymous behind the security of a keyboard, and it is even easier to form “friendships” through social media with people whom we have never met. These things are catalysts for discovery, freedom of speech, networking, business, the list goes on and on. Much good comes from the ease of electronic communication. But much is also lost. Many people whom I wish would read my opinions on this matter have already tuned out by now. It seems even a Facebook post that is long enough to warrant a hyperlink in order to “see more” is a post that is too long for a millennial to read. A post with a link to a blog that contains nothing but words instead of a photo based source of information with mere captions beneath is certainly not of interest.
No one wants to talk to anyone anymore. I’m not sure why they even call cellphones phones. I know very few people who actually use them to make phone calls. I get it. A text is simple and easy and fast. But a text really isn’t that important. I called my dad once and asked him if he got a text from me to which he had not yet responded. He told me that he heard his phone indicate a text had been delivered, but that he was in the middle of something and had not checked it. I was incensed. What if it had been an emergency? He calmly answered that people dying on the side of the road don’t text someone, they call someone. Well, alright.
The worst is when someone sends you a question via text and the answer isn’t that simple, and you are driving. So you dial their number and call them, but they do not answer. You just sent me a text! I know you are there! Answer the phone! Nope. Nothing. Fine. Google your own damn answer if you can’t exert enough effort to answer my call. How about the person who sends you a slightly critical text but they put LOL or the wink face emoji at the end of it? “Saw you across the parking lot. Wearing leggings as pants I see. Wink face emoji.” Is that supposed to soften the blow? Does the wink face mean that you did not just call me out for not taking the time or effort to change out of what I slept in before I went to the Piggly Wiggly to get wine? Between the blow softening emojis and the chronic call decliners, I’ve had just about enough of cellular technology.
The good news is I still have three friends who will always answer my call. They are my Tribe. We can text each other, too, but we make time to have actual conversations with each other. As Trish would say, we “connect.” Trish isn’t the leader of the Tribe, but she is the resident cheerleader. Trish is a management consultant. I used to think she always wanted to make things all about me, listen to how I was really doing, and know what I really thought about things because she was always “on.” But I realized that she doesn’t have this personality because she is a management consultant, she is a management consultant because she has this personality. We don’t make plans to meet up for dinner, we make plans to connect. We don’t talk about the weather, or what the girl in the grocery line in front of us had on; we talk about what we are doing that brings us fulfillment or how we need to better ourselves so that we can mentor others. It sounds exhausting, but trust me, it’s empowering.
Terry is the member of my Tribe who keeps us all grounded. She owns her own business, and has an adult child with special needs. She isn’t a complainer, she is a doer.When we met, we were total polar opposites politically and religiously. Over the years she has morphed into this completely different person who, somehow magically, is still totally the same as she ever was. It’s probably odd that we constantly discuss politics and religion, considering those are two topics I find it better not to discuss. She does her best to keep us all healthy, or at least aware of what oil, seed, or nutrient we should be consuming mass quantities of at any given time. She owns a coffee shop, although she doesn’t drink coffee. She also cares for a handful of progressively ill and elderly dogs. The more messed up they are, the more she seems to love them. Maybe she feels this way about people, too. Who knows? Maybe that’s why she likes me so much.
Becky is a successful career person in the medical field. She has two enchantingly obnoxious daughters and one ridiculously perfect boyfriend whom she annoyingly refers to as the most handsome man in the world. Don’t get me wrong, the man is handsome, but some of us (me) aren’t in a relationship and get tired of hearing about how good looking her man is. It’s like if you’re on a diet and your friend is in the back seat eating a dozen doughnuts. You know doughnuts are good. You’ve had a doughnut before. But you don’t have a doughnut right now, so you really don’t need her describing how great the warm, soft, glazed rings of deliciousness are while you’re in the front seat sucking on a celery stalk. Becky is the member of my Tribe who brings the fun factor. You never know where a night with Becky might lead, but like I said, she has a really good job, so she can afford the bail money.
As for me, I’m not sure what I contribute to the Tribe. But like the others, I stay pretty busy. I own my own business and am a single mother to two teenagers. I have a very active relationship with the Real Housewives of Orange County, New York, and New Jersey; and in a month or so, I will have an insatiable relationship with the Hallmark Channel as they begin to air their completely unrealistic, romantic, Christmas movies. So it’s easy to say that the four of us are all very busy people. The thing is, we make time for each other. We put forth effort – and it takes some serious effort – to arrange time to connect with each other. Trish is constantly flying all over the world, Terry has the shop and Bobby and the messed up dogs, Becky has her job and girls and the most handsome man in the world, and I’ve got my work, my kids, and a DVR that’s 89% full; not to mention, we don’t even all live in the same town. But we carve moments out of our busy schedules to talk on the phone and to connect in person on a regular basis.
The end result of this is a strong network of support and love that any one of us can lean on at any time. I can pick up the phone and make a call and one of these women will answer my call. I can’t say that about the other 959 contacts in my phone. I mean, my parents usually answer, but hell, my own damn kids don’t answer me half of the time. But if I text them, they will get back to me. They might even send me a kissy face emoji, or the little pile of poo emoji.
The article I was reading was actually about a book that delves into what it feels like to be the last generation to remember what it was like to live before the internet, and the author relays that the book mentions something called Analog August where people unplug for a month and get back to the basics. Yeah, that’s not really realistic, but stepping away from the trappings of social media is. I love Facebook, but it’s not my singular means of communication with the world, and it certainly isn’t my means of finding my self worth. Maybe we all just need to open our eyes a little. Maybe we should use one of our fingers to dial a friend to chat and do a little less texting. It’s great to have opposable thumbs, but maybe there is a better way to forge meaningful relationships other than tapping them on a tiny little screen. You know, if we actually talked to each other, really talked about things that are several layers below the surface, maybe the next generation could start to imagine what life was like before the internet. Or we could just keep on using acronyms and emojis to quickly brief each other on the mundane things in our day that have nothing to do with the people who we really are. Single tear sad face emoji.