Is this the DEATH of ALL relationships?
For whatever reason – probably just inherent curiosity, mostly… I’m always trying to learn something.
I’m always studying human behavior, asking questions, and just trying to put the pieces together.
Sometimes, if you look and listen long and hard enough… things make sense. But other times, nothing seems to make sense.
One thing I’ve been trying to get a handle on, is whether the dynamics of relationships have changed, since the advent of the smart phone. Specifically, over the last 5 years where smartphones and tablets have pretty much become a communications hub – and in many cases, a social, emotional and even a heavily-relied on tool for health, for loads of people.
When I was a kid – and even still, to this day… I was always someone who preferred honest, intimate conversations amongst a few close friends, over socializing with larger and perhaps less intimate crowds of people.
In other words, I’m not the guy with the biggest rolodex in town, but the people who are on there, are all important to me.
In fact, some of the best memories I have, revolved around these small groups and the warmth and camaraderie that came out of them.
And even when you’re alone with just one person. The ongoing banter and social development you get out of these kinds of conversations, not to mention the relief you feel, at being able to unload your problems, hopes and fears with a “safe person.”
Situations like this, create a certain level of intimacy and comfort with others, that’s hard to replicate in any other situation. And these feelings only grow deeper over time, especially if you continue sharing these kinds of experiences.
I wonder though, has the smartphone changed the level or the “depth” of intimacy people feel about one another. Especially for people who’ve grown up with the phone from their childhood.
I ask this question because I am constantly amazed by the interaction my daughter and her friends have. She is 14, and what I’m about to describe has been going on for at least the last 5 years.
By all accounts, she and her friends aren’t interacting, any more than two people sitting next to one another on the morning train might be interacting.
They will come into the house and sit down at the bar in the kitchen, waiting for something to eat. While they’re waiting, they aren’t talking to one another — and this is the same whether there’s 1 friend here… or 3 friends here.
Instead, they’re all on their cell phones, talking and texting away and looking at God knows what – but they aren’t paying the least bit of attention to one another.
They go upstairs to her room, and the same thing goes on.
You walk in there, and you might see two of the girls on the bed – one is texting away, and another is laying there with headphones on, watching a movie on her laptop.
Another is listening to music (again, with headphones on), and still another is laying down on the carpet tweeting away.
And for the record, I know this isn’t popular, but I am NOT a twitter fan. To me, it’s probably one of the most useless wastes of time, ever developed. It’s like watching CNN/Oprah/TMZ and your local or personal social gossip channel… all at high-speed and without any sound. NONSTOP, 24/7.
I don’t know – but to me, there are just lots of better things to do than this. Like, almost anything, in my opinion. But, I digress…
My question is this. Do you think these kids feel “less intimate” in these relationships, than you or I might have felt when we were this age. And does actually talking and interacting, and learning and polishing your social skills impact the quality of your friendships?
I realize I sound exactly the way parents probably sound to any teenager. “Oh, if we can only have the good old days.”
But that’s not how I feel, at all. The good old days were only good when you were little and had no responsibility.
And don’t get me wrong – I don’t presume MY level of intimacy or the level of intimacy people my age had when we were younger, is “better” or more “well-earned” than the relationships my daughter might have.
I’m just posing the question, about whether or not it can possibly be the same thing.
And if it’s NOT possible – if, in fact, the level of personal bonding is decreasing over time, what are the implications of this, for us as a society – if there are any?
This might sound like an “end of days” conversation, but please don’t take it this way. I’m not one of these people who dwells on ANYTHING negative, and I never think about fear-based social issues. I’m not the kind of guy who spends 5 minutes thinking about things like Y2K or revolutions.
And I’m definitely not saying “This is destroying our culture,” yadda, yadda, yadda.
In fact, my hope, of course, is that it’s helping society as a whole, not hindering it. I’m really just, as I said earlier, trying to understand what’s going on, more than anything else.
We sit in cars and the kids in the back are “plugged in”… you walk through airports, and everyone’s talking – not to each other, but to someone else out there “somewhere”… and it’s rare to have a telephone meeting, and not be going through e-mails at the same time.
I’m just wondering, are we missing something?
About two weeks ago, I decided to do something that was a little anxiety-producing for me, at first: I started working out in the gym, without my headphones on.
I took my headphones out and stopped checking my e-mail messages while I’m at the gym.
I swear to you, at first, it was like giving up cigarettes. Only it didn’t take 30 days to get rid of the jitters and all the anxiety that comes with it. It only took about 20 minutes.
Surprisingly, this is like losing weight or taking up a new hobby – it’s one of those things where you don’t know how good it’s going to feel, until you actually do it.
Well in these 2 weeks alone, I’ve met loads of new people in the gym… I feel a LOT more alert… more in tune with my body… and surprisingly, FAR more clear-headed.
I have to admit, there have been a couple of times when I wanted, or I felt like I needed some music, to get me through a few difficult reps.
But these times have been few and far between, so it’s not really a big deal.
I’ll only wear my headphones now when I’m doing some cardio work, which is mind-numbingly boring.
When I lift, I’m present in the moment, however, and completely free of any kind of gadgets. The only thing I use my phone for, is to record my routine on an app I have.
I’m doing this as part of an overall plan to become more present in all parts of my life. To have more fun and less work, and more relationships and less isolation.
I think some of this process has to do with me turning 50 last year and trying to think longer and harder about life, in general. Another reason is, if I look back over my life, it’s been a pretty difficult life, overall.
Too much work, not enough play. Too many responsibilities and not enough goofing off.
And while some of this was circumstantial, I do believe a good chunk of this has been based on my own decisions and the choices I made.
The good news is, since much of this was based on my own decisions… all I have to do moving forward, is make better decisions.
Sure, some of these choices weren’t “on purpose,” but I guess that’s why I want to be more present. I’m thinking, if I’m more present, I’ll be more aware. And if I’m more aware, I’ll make better decisions.
I’ll let you know how this works out.
And if you have any comments or thoughts on any part of today’s e-mail, leave them below.
Now go sell something, Craig Garber
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