It is safe to say that as humans we now live in a world where we are better connected than we have ever been before. You can talk to people on the other side of the world in an instant, via text, phone or even face to face with the help of Skype or Facetime, or some other app. You can travel to pretty much any place on earth almost directly from your front door. You can even connect with complete strangers, with blogs like this one and with sites like Facebook and Reddit. You can engross yourself in peoples lives with Vlogs on YouTube or Vine or whatever other technology that takes your fancy. But why is it, with all these ways and opportunities to be connected and to connect with people, I feel more alone than I ever have?
When I was a child, until my early teenage years, mobile phones didn’t really exist, not for the everyday person, and the internet wasn’t in every house and if you did have the internet it was dial-up and it would take you forever to connect and you certainly couldn’t use the house phone and the internet at the same time. But when I was younger, although I had less ways of contacting my friends and I didn’t live my own life and I couldn’t do as I pleased, I had to ask my mother’s permission, I felt like I was better connected with my friends and family.
These days, I have all these possibly ways of reaching out to people, yet I can go a long time without any interaction with people who not to long ago I would speak to a lot more.
Maybe it’s the age I have gotten to, or maybe it is the fact that everyone is fed up with my health, but I just feel like people have gotten so wrapped up in themselves, and the fact that sites like Facebook give you the illusion of being connected to people in your life, but really they alienate.
People are now able to share as much or as little as they like, without really scratching the surface. You can spend hours scrolling down your feed, and you can tell yourself that it’s your way of keeping up to date with people’s lives, but really you are just seeing what people want you to see.
Simply clicking “Like” on a photo or a post doesn’t mean you are connected with that person. It is an impersonal way of showing “I acknowledged this, but I really don’t care enough to talk about it.”
If you think about it, of all the people you have on Facebook, or your chosen social media site, how many of them do you talk to on a regular basis about anything of consequence?
People show the good online, not many people are honest about showing the bad and how they really feel. Sites that are meant to help us share our lives with people are making us liars. People feel that they have to portray this image online. I don’t know who decided it, but someone out there decided that whatever you post online to share and connect with people has to be good. Your life has to seem perfect. This is why whenever people post a photo of themselves it’s always a vain selfie that they have taken multiples of, before scrolling through and picking the best one before applying filters to make themselves look nearly unrecognisable. Even I have fallen victim to this culture.
I can’t be the only one feeling that I am now connected to more people via technology but physically and emotionally closer to fewer?
I know that I am blessed that should I really need them, I have friends who I can call upon, and that without this technology keeping in contact with friends who have emigrated to Australia and Canada and the likes would be far harder, but also thanks to this technology, friends think that a “like” on a status or a photo is enough of a relationship and enough support and is a good enough way of showing that they care.
My life has been completely flipped upside down over the past few years due to my health and in June of last year whilst I was fighting for my life, I noticed that very few people other than immediate family and Harry really showed me any concern. I got very few messages asking how I was.
It wasn’t until I was well enough to post a status about having been unwell and Harry had bumped in to a few people whilst out running errands for me and had told them that people started to message and contact me.
“I had no idea you were so unwell, you didn’t post anything, I did think you’d been a bit quiet online recently” they all said.
It was a sad moment actually. Although people had noticed my absence online, they still didn’t feel the need to reach out. I hadn’t been in any state to, but even people who are my best friends didn’t reach out to me until I had made the first move, had uploaded a picture and a status. People have reached a new level, maybe even a new low. People have become so complacent with friendships, taking all this new technology for granted. They have become lazy and distanced whilst protesting that they are better connected to people than ever.
So can anyone tell me why with all these new ways to keep connected I sat in that hospital and even now, I sit feeling alone?
Ever since feeling like this I have started to disconnect in order to reconnect.
I now post birthday cards to people, whereas most people (myself included previously) now adays just post a really generic and meaningless post on your Facebook wall. I have a diary, a physical diary. I no longer use the one on my phone and in it I keep note of all the important dates. All birthdays, anniversaries, moving dates… addresses, everything. You name it. A friend buys a new house – I send them a card and a gift in the post or hand deliver it.
A friend is unwell – I post them a card with a lovely message inside, letting them know I am here if they need me.
When I asked my friends to be my bridesmaids, I wrote them all very personal letters about why I am asking them and how much I love them and how much it would mean to me, I even made my own envelopes.
I don’t rely on Facebook to remind me of people’s birthdays, so I can write 1 line and feel smug that I made the effort. I went through all that trouble, to click on the notification you are given daily telling you whose birthday it is. You may have hundreds or thousands of friends online, depending how outgoing you are, and you might get a third of those people wishing you a “Happy Birthday” online, but how many of them do you really think would remember or care what day it was if they weren’t prompted?
That really started to bother me, and last year I even took my birthday off Facebook to see how many people actually remembered.
Obviously the people closest to me did, which I suppose is all that matters but it only goes to highlight further the fact that we are more disconnected than we’d like to admit.
So now when I send cards and letters, everyone always comments how nice it was to get something that they could actually touch and keep, how it made them feel really important and loved. That is shocking isn’t it?
One friend who I sent a “New Home” card to, said it was the only one she got. Everyone else had either reached out on Facebook or text her, and it made her feel really happy to get my card in the post. She said that after the stress of moving with a 2 and a half-year old getting a lovely card, hand written and filled with genuine love, reduced her to tears, good, happy tears.
And when the girls got my letters about being a bridesmaid, I got a card back, I got texts and I got phone calls, all saying thank you, how lovely they were and how it was a lovely touch.
Whilst I acknowledge I need these leaps in technology to keep up with people, especially abroad, those who have taken the plunge and moved thousands of miles away, I am thankful for Facebook and Skype, for allowing me to stay in touch and involved in their lives, but for the people locally… It isn’t good enough.
Another thing I do is, I now call people where as before a text would have sufficed. The other day a friend texted me, and I called her back and we spoke for over 2 hours on the phone. It was lovely. We caught up properly, had loads to talk about.
Anyway… it’s time to follow my own advice and disconnect. Whilst I hope this message reaches people, ironically connects with people, I hope it also helps people realise that they are living a little bit of a lie.
This false ideal of being connected needs to be broken. Go out and form proper connections, or rekindle ones that have lapsed because of your laziness or because you didn’t realise exactly how these sites make others around you feel.
You never know either, someone out there could be desperate to hear from YOU, or someone, anyone, hoping that someone see’s through the falsities posted online and see’s that the person is lonely. That they need someone to reach out. I urge you, don’t risk losing someone because you forgot what it really feels like to be connected.