Incommunicado

We are so connected these days. So switched on. So linked in, if you’ll pardon the pun. Watching my girls during their swimming lessons, I can be texting someone, facebook chatting with someone else, and checking my email all at the same time.

For keeping track of friends it’s wonderful. For knowing what loved ones overseas are up to, it’s amazing. Sharing photos – brilliant (although I must admit I am a trifle paranoid and refuse to post photos of my kids on facebook – it’s facebook’s policy that they can do whatever the hell they like with my photos that I find disturbing).

For keeping in touch, for really communicating? It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, I think it’s widening the disconnect, and replacing real community with a digital facsimile that just doesn’t stack up.

It’s wonderful for getting to know people on a surface level – I have connected with parents from my daughters’ school on there, and we know each other’s politics much better than we would have otherwise.  We share opinions on world events, and connect over things that perhaps we wouldn’t have found out otherwise.

When I’m lost in a strange place
Scared and alone
When I’m wishing for home
That’s when I think of you

But time and again I find that I think I know what’s going on in all my facebook friends’ lives. As though they must surely post everything significant that they do or feel online. As though clicking “like” or making a passing comment on their status is actually communicating. Really connecting.

It’s not.

We are social animals. Seeing each other’s faces is important. Touching each other, even if it’s just a hand shake, is crucial to us both physiologically and psychologically.

There are things even I won’t post on facebook, or on my blog (astounding, I know). There are feelings and traumas in my life that I can’t share online. There are connections I can’t make digitally that flow effortlessly over coffee.

This is not to say that it’s not possible to connect electronically. I have friends overseas with whom I have built intense and enduring friendships largely via email. But that’s personal, one to one email. It’s not public status swapping on facebook. It’s a direct and personal communication. Sometimes it’s even possible to share things via email that would be much harder to share face to face.

The danger, I think, lies in believing we know what’s going on in each other’s lives on the basis of our public personae. We run the risk of facebook usurping our real community. Filling a space in our busy lives that would otherwise be filled by calling each other, or catching up for coffee. “No need to do that,” I think. “She’s fine, just busy.” When in reality I have no idea how she actually is.

I saw a great post (on facebook!) the other day suggesting that the reason we feel insecure is that we are comparing our “behind the scenes” with everyone else’s “highlights reel”. And I think it goes deeper. I think we are replacing our in-depth, behind-the-scenes tours with glimpses of the highlights reels. We’re never even looking into each other’s eyes anymore.

I’m always thinking of you
It’s all that I can do
I’d go mad not being with you
If not for the thought of you
The promise of dreams come true
I’d go mad not being with you

That’s when I think of you – 1927.

I think it’s time I made a conscious effort to get off the computer (my goodness, how many times have I said that?) and call people. Organise more coffees. Have more dinner parties. Arrange more reunions. Tonight I’m blogging about it. Tomorrow I’m going to start doing it. I wake early. Why not join me? You can call anytime.

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