Are We Really Connecting?

In the last few weeks I have been hearing from many different sources that we just are not connecting with each other anymore.  I can hear you saying, “What?  We have so many ways to connect.  Technology has given us ways to keep up with each other’s comings and goings.  How could we not be connected?”

The latest changes with Facebook really got me to consider how I am connecting with people.  I admit, I was serious thinking about giving up my account (and I am a faithful Facebook participant).  Somehow this change really felt like the world (of Facebook) was telling me how I am going to communicate with others.  I felt like my options were being taken away.  I know, right now that sounds silly, but for the first day or two I was in quite the quandry.

I started to actually doubt the benefit of Facebook when a friend of mine wrote me an email and apologized for not writing sooner.  She said that she had seen on Facebook that I had survived the hurricane so she did not feel she had to reach out.  I didn’t mind, but it did get me thinking.  A quick sentence on Facebook does tell your friends that you are OK and it does alleviate you from having to send mass emails to proclaim your status. Does this short update really connect you?  I enjoyed her email and the details of her life so much more than just a short update posted to the world of Facebook.

Then I started thinking about my ‘older’ friends who simply will not go on Facebook.  I enjoy their emails or phone calls so much.  I decided to stop ragging on them for not being ‘with the times’ and start appreciating that they take the time to write to me.

Then, my brother and his family talked about the aftermath of the hurricane, where they had no electricity for days.  They said that they were out on the street and saw neighbors that they had not seen for over 20 years.  Yikes!  Their supposition was that people all feel connected from in front of their computer screens.  They felt that people didn’t feel the need to come out and see their neighbors because they had that need of connection fulfilled through their computers.  I get some of that.

So, where is this going and how do I feel right now?  I have concluded that it is up to me to decide how I want to connect with people.  I am grateful that I can keep an eye on the events of my family and friends who live far away.  It is certainly better than 30 years ago when I lived in Germany and snail mail was pretty much the only affordable way to communicate.  But… I am not going to allow myself to think that new technology has totally replaced some of the older ways to connect.  I still like to pick up the phone and have a conversation with a friend.  I still send greeting cards that come in the mail.  I like to visit people.  I like to have email conversations.

I am thinking that in years to come, the younger folks will look back at an age where there was no internet.  They will wonder how we all survived without it (just as we find ourselves wondering how our parents survived without TV or their grandparents without electricity.)
Somewhere in that conversation they will say, “I think that things were actually better back then.”

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