As I stared at the flashing name of one of my favorite friends who was traveling in Europe, I was startled.
Is something wrong?
Why is he calling?
This is odd…
My instinct luckily rationalized before the phone stopped glowing… I swiped the screen to answer, “Well, hello there… You’re calling me?”
In minutes, I was happily submerged in one of our classic deep conversations. There was no pre-call prep, no “Let’s get this over with”, no obligation, no anticipation. There was “What are youuu doing right now?” and shared moments of the day. There were painted pictures of international travel and mundane-made-silly musings. There were laughs.
There was the present moment.
When was the last time I’ve indulged in spontaneity? The unplanned conversation. The unexpected break. The disregard of my coveted calendar.
Technology has gifted us so much, but in that process we’ve lost some of the little subtleties we didn’t realize were delights until they were missing. The surprise knock at the door, stumbling into an amazing meal at a nondescript restaurant, watching the football game without spreads or predictions in mind.
Yes, I love the luxuries… I can sidestep bad restaurants thanks to Yelp. Scoremobile tells me if my UW Huskies are favored to win. And I’ve visually traveled the world and glimpsed the plates of countless restaurants via my Instagram feed.
But every once in a while, I like the impromptu. Someone was thinking of me and I’m rewarded with the live texture of their voice. The shifting tonalities, mysterious background noises transporting me to their side, and the illustration of the world as they are currently experiencing it.
I can’t remember the last time I picked up the phone just to talk. I don’t recall any recent instances of dialing without texting first. When the phone rings, I usually frown and quickly silence its obnoxious insistence away. “Not now!” I scowl. Instead, I substitute with a scheduled Skype or a timed phone call. Generally, it’s exchanged rapid-fire texts or sifted Facebook update comments.
Genuine connection cannot be born in Times New Roman. It needs the giggle as our sentence trails off, the whimper from the ridiculous remark, the audible sigh at the end of a long day. When we’re unable to mask in block font, people experience the real us.
Every once in a while it’s nice to go back, without pre-meditation or alert, and give someone the gift of you and your fully invested attention.
This isn’t to bash our online connectedness. I love the perks that Facebook has afforded me; to share in the little moments, recaps, and snapshots in lives of close friends to newfound acquaintances. Contrary to cynical articles I’ve read on how social media has made us more lonely, I believe they are tools. We can use them to disconnect and substitute the more intimate and meaningful actions that aren’t replaceable, or we can use the tools to supplement and color our relationships to greater depth.
Our ability to instant message and text are there to add another layer. We can add more resolution to our view. But sometimes we don’t want margarine, we’re craving real farm-fresh butter. That instant coffee can tide us over in a pinch, but there’s nothing like the home-brewed real thing. Sipped slowly. There’s nothing like the real thing.
Next time your screen starts flashing, resist the urge to hit “ignore”. Take on the interruption as welcomed, and pick up the phone.
Photos courtesy of Dave Ursillo.