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Is Our Communication Really Connection?

We live in an age of supposed ‘connection”, but with the youth I work with now, all I see is a level of loneliness that I have not seen before and I've done this for over a decade. The more platforms they have, the less real connection they seem to have, and the more desperately they are seeking it…..and not finding it. That cycle just adds to the loneliness and their feelings of desperation and ultimately, their personal sense of being unloved.

As adults, I think we have inadvertently created, or at the very least helped facilitate, a system that is subtly encouraging a lonely life and discouraging community connection with our social media behavior. I think we have given our kids the wrong messaging and it’s hurting them.

I recently asked 5 friends if they answer the phone when it rings….even if it’s someone they know. 5 out of 5 said no. When I asked why not, I was told “I never answer my phone. People can text me if they need me”. When I pushed harder and asked why not just talk to someone now, they told me they did not have time to ‘chat’.

No time to chat?

The average North American adult spends 1.5 hours a day on social media.

1.5 hours scrolling and you can’t take 5 minutes to chat with a friend on the phone?

Nope, it's not that we don’t have time to chat.

I think there is a disconnect.

And I don’t think we know why or how it happened, it just did.

And if we can’t know why we behave in this way, we can’t explain it to our children who are suffering with great loneliness and a very real sense of that disconnect.

I won't even get into what people told me they do when their doorbell rings!!

I think the age of the ‘pop by’ are gone. For now. (wink wink)

Don’t get me wrong…I too have become a victim of this weird way we connect and communicate. My best friends and I have fallen into the “let’s book a time to catch up” trap.

When someone is having a bad day, we text first “got time to chat…I’m having a bad day” and then we call.

I feel bad about this.

I feel like we should not have to ‘schedule’ in our time for the people we love in this way.

I want to give 10 minutes to a friend who needs me now.

I know we are all scheduled, or over scheduled, to the minute.

Of course there will be times I can’t grab that call. That’s what voice mail is for! (also I was amazed how infuriated people get when others leave a voice mail!) Then I can use text to say “I’m totally jammed right now. Can I call you later, or do you need me NOW?”

Every youth I work with has a phone in their pocket and the only time they actually use the phone function is when their parents have not answered their text messages. And then they are annoyed that they had to call.

Text is great.

Messenger is great.

DM is great.

Snapchat is great…..I don't really know…..I’m assuming by how much my youth use it.

BUT, there are things you can’t really get with the written message.

There is no joint laughter.

There is no tone of voice.

There is no active listening.

There is no empathetic ooh, ahhs and ooofs.

These things are missing.

These are the things that let us know we are heard.

These are the things that really connect us to others.

These are the seemingly innocuous things that others do that make us feel loved and appreciated.

These are the things that make us feel less alone in the world.

Of course, I’d love these things in person, but … steps…..let’s start by picking up the phone.

Let’s crush loneliness one live connection at a time.

Let’s do it for ourselves.

Let’s do it for our youth.

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