“These things ruin relationships!” I exclaimed angrily at my brother, shaking my smart phone in the air. This was the moment I realized I am going to be an awesome old man. It was Valentine’s Day, and I was sitting down for dinner with my brother at a chicken restaurant where the birds are described as “slim”, discussing the complexities of dating in the digital age just moments before going to watch a certain animated movie about a crime-fighting billionaire. I talked about the days when I was in high school and I would text my girlfriend and freak out internally if I didn’t hear back within 5 minutes. I would force conversation by bringing up the weather, or asking them how they are for the 500th time that day (I know. I sounded like a delight to date). The sad thing is that deep down, I felt like if I didn’t text them every ten minutes they would forget about me, or would think that I didn’t care about them anymore. I was in a constant state of panic, stress and anxiety. All because the person on the other end has a life and actually focuses on the people around them instead of texting their clingy boyfriend to make sure he doesn’t self-destruct.
We live in a digital age where we can access information in the blink of an eye. Everything we want to know is at our finger tips. While it is great to have access to so much information, it has become a bit of a curse. I fasted social media at the beginning of the year, and realized just how often I looked at my phone. How often I missed out on beautiful moments with people because I was so absorbed in my device. I realized how little I was showing I truly cared for the people around me. I was so absorbed in the mindless escape of social media that I forgot a very important lesson. One of the best gifts you could ever give a person is your undivided attention. Eye contact, open ears, and an open mind.
I truly envy the older generation. Dating back then seems like it was amazing. If you wanted to talk to someone, you would call them and set up a time and place to meet. That, or you would have to try and run into them in public. On top of this, texting didn’t exist, so every time you met up you had things to talk about. You didn’t exhaust all your stories through mindless texts. When you said good night, it was good night, and you trusted that they would feel the same way next time they saw you (hopefully).
Now don’t get me wrong, texting has many uses and I am not anti-technology. I love technology, but I love people so much more. I simply think that we show our phones and laptops the attention we should be giving to the people around us. When I go out to eat with people, most of the people at the table are on their phones interacting with people that aren’t right there with them instead of showing their friends that made time to be with them the attention they deserve. I am guilty of this. I will sit at a table with people that love me and want to hang out with me, and I don’t interact with them until I stumble upon a funny meme to show them. We laugh for a second, and we go back to scrolling through pages and pages of political rants and cat videos.
Relationships are so fragile nowadays, and I honestly give technology and social media a lot of blame for that. Do the people around us know how much we care about them? Are we texting them once a day and saying that is enough? Never making a plan to actually set aside time to hangout with them and learn what is going on in their life? If you only get one thing from this post I hope it is this. Relationships aren’t convenient, they are intentional. Love isn’t something that happens, it is a choice. If your friend is going through a hard time, go to them and care for them. If you like a girl, ask them out in person. Phones should be used to organize times to meet with people in person. It should not be the main way we are communicating with people.
I am going to be challenging myself to make a change in this, and I hope that you all join me. I am tired of being an anxious mess on the other end of the phone. I want my communication to be with the people around me. If I go out to be with friends, my phone is in my pocket, and my attention is with the people that are around me. If my friends text me, I want to set up a time to meet with them and be intentional with them. I want my friends to feel loved and cared about when I am with them. I want my love to be intentional and shown in my actions, not just my words.