I’ve tried to like casual conversations… I really have. I’ve tried accustoming myself to short encounters on crowded streets. I’ve tried mastering the art of floating gracefully from person to person while resisting the desire to remain by each individual’s side for a few minutes.
But I have failed.
I have failed because I’m addicted to human interaction. Not the boom-box, strobe-lit, huge event kind, but the slow, personal type. The kind where two people ask one another, “how are you” and truly listen to the other’s response.
I crave eye contact. Sentences that begin with the word ‘honestly’. Periods of time during which watches and phones are not glanced at because you and I are occupied. Because we are busy looking at the same thing and endeavoring to explain the different ways the shadows fall from our different perspectives.
I want to experience, if only for a moment, the way the world seems through a pair of you-tinted glasses. I want to tap into your thought stream. Because I’m sure the flavor of your thoughts is entirely dissimilar from mine. And I’m certain that if we allowed one another a taste, we would never be the same. We would be more accepting. More accommodating. More loving.
I often think that Facebook will facilitate this type of connection. That it will draw me closer to the inner workings of your mind. That it will create a forum for depth from the comforts of my living room. After all, Facebook makes a show of being the epitome of sharing. With this social network, others are enabled to join in our life experiences, insights and inspirations. Our joys. Our reactions. Our birthdays. Our engagements.
Facebook appears to be the perfect way to welcome people into our lives.
But Facebook often leads us astray. Instead of us controlling it, it turns around and controls us. Facebook begins as a tool with which to connect and morphs into the cause of further alienation. Instead of our fingers grasping the hand of a newly made friend, they endlessly scroll down a never-ending thrill of updates. Every person gets a few seconds of our time before we move on. Facebook is forever accessible. It is always there. It is always calling.
I think that even the most social amongst us have been there.
Some days, Facebook is the first thing we glance at on our way to work and the last thing that meets our eyes before our smartphones fall from our hands in exhaustion. It is the first place that our wedding photos are put on display. It is our go-to time passing catalyst as we wait outside of our children’s schools. It is not only the best source of information about our friends (and, frankly, the people we stalk), but the foundation upon which we build a large portion of our self-worth.
Some days, we check Facebook so many times an hour that we think our breathing is dependent on it. We become intubated by this social machine and our chests rise and fall along with the number of likes on our posts. Even more than that… all of our physiological responses depend upon it. Our heart rates increase every time we see a notification above that tiny world symbol.
As if the only thing that matters on this planet is that diminutive red number.
As if that replaces real social interactions.
But it doesn’t. It can’t. Facebook can be used as a supplement, but not a main course. Because it is not satisfying – it is filled only with empty calories. As was that party last week. As was that conversation last night which was filled with whispers and laughs and other fragments of dust that glittered in the light.
These things are delicious. They keep us high. They fill us with energy for a few moments. A few hours. A few days. But our bodies can weaken from a lack of protein. Our souls can grow lethargic from a lack of sharing. A lack of substance. A lack of realness.
The New Year is coming. Along with it could come many Facebookless days, if you choose to make it so. Day after night of timeless wonder, during which nothing exists but the food on our plates and the people sitting adjacent to us. This is our chance to help ourselves to extra portions of depth.
Some people automatically reach for the alcohol on the laden table, but I’m more attracted to the vulnerability. To the glow of freckled, scarred faces that are engraved with laughter and tinged with exhaustion from lives well-lived. To thoughts that are not calculated to fit your persona, but sprout from you in the raw.
During these interactions, the values of your comments are not determined by ‘likes’. You are obviously so much more than your ‘followers’. You are unique and worthy by your own right.
This type of relationship need not only exist on holidays. It can occur every day. Every time you look someone in the eye and listen to what they have to say.
Let’s shut down Facebook for a few hours. Let’s stand on that busy street corner for 3 minutes and look at nothing but each other. And let’s talk. Face to face. Candidly. Because, after all, that’s the only way for us to really get to know one another.
And I’d really like to get to know you. You and I reside on completely different sections of the spectrum of humanity. You possess your own passions and memories and intricacies and I have mine. I’m sure that you have so much to teach; so much to share. After all, you’ve somehow gotten to where you are today. And that couldn’t have been easy.
And it might be nice if you could get to know me, too. The me beyond my witticisms and corniness and eyeliner. The me that is more than a stream of Facebook posts.
I’m hungry for our two perspectives to stop shyly eyeing each other from the corners of the room. I want them work up the guts to ask one another to dance.