I tell my kids, if you’re going to say sorry and mean it, you’ve got to look each other in the eye.
We live in a world that makes human interaction less and less likely. Bank by phone, order food online, Facebook, text, email, fax (do people even still do this?), use a machine if you have to go to the Post Office. If you have to get out of your car for gas, when was the last time you spoke to someone at the next pump?
In so many ways, technology is quicker, easier, cheaper. But what have we lost in the bargain?
Letters are kept, emails are not. Why? When I write a letter I have to think about it, draft it, write it out carefully without mistake, then stick a stamp on it and send it. I have to mean it to go to all that trouble. I have to be really clear about what I want to say, and how I want to say it.
Not so with emails, right? Who has the strength of character to not hit ‘Send’ in the heat of an argument? Or delete the text before sending when your finger is a millimeter from the screen?
Advances in technology have made life “quicker”, “easier” and “cheaper”. Much of which is absolutely incredible.
But what’s the downside to technology when it comes to people?
“Quicker”? Life is already quick enough, isn’t that what every elderly person always tells you? I can fly door to door from London to LA in less than 24 hours, and my life begins again as soon as we hit the landing strip. Yes, my body is back in Los Angeles, but my heart has barely lost sight of the West coast of Ireland. And there’s no time to catch up with me now.
“Easier”? Technology makes life “easier” because now you don’t even need to sever relationship over the phone. You can tap it into a keyboard. The only character needed to do this are the ones at the tips of your fingers.
“Cheaper”? But actually so much more costly, because we are forgetting the real value of life itself.
We can forget that is a real person we are talking to on the line, at the receiving end of our ‘Send’, reading our clever comment or sharp tweet. There is a real person who reads the mean Instagram comment you thought smart, and everyone who knows them reads it too. There is a real heart that’s torn by electronic gossip, which moves like quick silver around their world.
And I’m only talking about adults here. What is it doing to our kids? How can they possibly learn to interact respectfully with others – friends or strangers, authority figures or those younger – with so little practice?
In a family where every member has a cell phone and can text from room to room?
In middle school where every success or mistake is writ large virally for all the world to see?
In High School where shame can be administered at the touch of a screen as lethally as arsenic?
Wouldn’t that make you hide your pain? Your fears? Your loneliness? Your rage? Who are you going to take all those emotions to now? Your computer?
What are you going to do with all your non-shiny bits? Your broken heart? Who is it even safe to talk to now, when they can so easily tell one other person and suddenly the whole world knows? No wonder kids are reduced to the “grand gesture.” Life is moving so quickly who will listen if they simply speak?
My heart broke with yours – once more – at the latest school shooting. This time by a 14 year old in Marysville, WA. Reuters reported that ‘the attack was related to a fight over a girl.’ So he got a gun, went into his school cafeteria and let everyone hear and see and feel and know just how upset he was. And then he killed himself.
How utterly tragic. No more the innocence and truth of the Norman Rockwell ‘Shiner’ for our own children growing up in an age where they mostly encounter their ‘friends’ through the medium of a screen.
God bless the parents of that boy. God knows someone tried.
Aren’t we all on some level responsible to model EVERYDAY for the younger generation (let alone our peers) how to handle authentic, respectful, human relationship?
To tell the kids rushing to the Apple Store that technology will never be able to replace the primal need for meaningful communication between two human beings face to face?
To tell them that in order to communicate well in our personal lives, we have to create time. Time made in life’s hectic schedule to meet, to speak, to listen, to learn, to resolve, to accept, to know.
To respect the incontrovertible REALITY of another human life. Another human being who has only one life to live, just like you. Where you can actually see the freckles on their face, touch their shirt, spot the chip in their nail polish, notice their chapped hands and scuffed sneakers, feel their hair brush past your face?
Because no matter how fast or fantastic your phone is, no matter how many Instagram followers or Facebook friends or ReTweets you have, NOTHING replaces the feel of a human hand.
A hand within reach that is willing to stretch out and grab yours. From the infinity of a digital abyss.