Have you ever found yourself idle in a public place and looked around at what everyone else was doing? Whether it was a doctor’s office, a restaurant, a carwash, or anywhere else, chances are that every other person had a phone. Few are immune to the addictive effects of today’s technology, especially when social interest and approval are only a click away.
I have sat in a room full of people, feeling like the only person present, as I looked around and found that everyone was unavailable while being engaged in private conversations with their phones. I’ve seen children dart into traffic while parents couldn’t be focused on their child’s safety but on whatever they found more important on their phones. I’ve seen children climbing on strangers and running unsupervised wherever they wished. I’ve seen people walk into signs and telephone poles. Of course, phones are not the only distraction in a vehicle that can cause wrecks and loss of lives, but few other distractions are quite as enticing as those avenues of technology that are connected to social media.
We are more closely connected than ever before. We know the whereabouts of our friends, where they vacationed three weeks ago, the names and birth orders of their children, and can pull them up on our phones. We know where people work (and that they don’t actually work) and their days off, where they eat on Thursdays, the apparel they are likely to buy based on the likes we have seen, and the new house they have acquired. We know their sleep patterns because we can see when they are online and for how long they have been idle. We know what their spouses bought them for Christmas and the awards their children have been given. We know that one parent is a social misfit and that the other is devoted to his or her religion. We see family recipes, photos dating as far back as the camera, and some even post genealogical information. We know not to say a word if our friend makes a passionate post about a controversial matter, lest we lose the friendship. Yet, what really constitutes friendship that is virtual with no tangible roots in reality?
As all of this information perverts humanity and privacy, we continue our lives while looking for ego strokes and accolades. We whittle down our connections with others based on whether they agree with us on matters that we really should keep to ourselves. We are losing our humanity because, in spite of our online connectedness, we are almost entirely disconnected in reality. We are self-absorbed and we have conditioned ourselves to believe that all importance surrounds ourselves and that others have become less important. We have forgotten that we are all connected, of the same consciousness, part of the same creator, and only separated by skin.
How can we reconnect? How can we establish real connections and build fruitful relationships? Here are some ideas to help you get the most out of life and your connections, while also demonstrating that you are a true lady or gentleman:
- Turn the ringer off. Phones are intrusive and ringers are even more intrusive. Show consideration for others by keeping your phone on vibrate and keeping it out of sight. There are times when it may be important to keep your phone nearby, which is fine, but for all other times, keep it silent and seemingly nonexistent.
- Keep your phone to yourself. No one should be familiar with the appearance of your phone. That is because it should be out of sight at all times. Almost never look at your phone while with others. It is respectful, considerate, and a proper manner not to do so. See if you can meet the challenge!
- Check the phone in a private place. Trips to the restroom, waiting in parked vehicles, and any other alone time is appropriate to check the phone. At other times, show others that you care by making them a priority and giving them your undivided attention. If you are in public and in need of entertainment, try starting a conversation with someone.
- Keep a landline in addition to your cell phone. There are many reasons to keep landlines. Cell phone reception is not in every area of the world. Cell phone networks are not always functional and sometimes may be down for hours at a time, preventing its users from communicating at all. Landlines, when corded, are not dependent upon electricity, which means that they will still work in times of inclement weather and power outages. They are important for a stable method of communication and are especially important for the elderly and for children. Also, when your cell phone is silent and others need to reach you or your guests, this is an effective way for them to reach you. If you don’t want to be bugged by telemarketers, only give this number to your friends and family, not businesses, and keep this number unlisted.
- Read books on how to start conversations. This is a great idea if you are relatively shy or often find yourself at a loss for words. There is an art to conversation and connecting with others. This art is learned, not natural.
- Make yourself available. If people are attached to their phones or are listening to music or reading, they are telling the world that they do not wish to be bothered and that they are unavailable. If you are in an area filled with unavailable people, it can be hard to occupy yourself by sitting there without any distractions. There are still ways to engage others when they are not available. Many people make themselves unavailable because everyone else seems unavailable and because they are socially uncomfortable since they have lost a lot of social skills through the long-term use of social media.
- Limit your time on social media. The more you connect with others, the less you will rely on social media. The less time you spend on social media, the more time you will have with other people and other activities. Practice humility. Back away from the computer and the phone. Connect with real people.
- Limit what you share on social media. Posting less about your private life enriches your own privacy and gives you much more to talk about with others in person. It also protects your home and your loved ones when you are on vacation because not everyone knows that you are away from your home.
- Practice discretion. The less you say, the more you will gain. Don’t make enemies with others who have differing opinions. Sidestep those topics and keep your opinions to yourself.
- Make real connections. Figure out ways to connect with others, to include new friends in your life, and make it a priority to lift the morale of friends and family who may be in low points in their lives. Start going on outings and holding weekly or bi-monthly meals or activities and encourage others to join.
- Make real memories. If you are always living life through the viewfinder on your camera or the posts you make on social media, you aren’t living. Those who live full, satisfying lives have no time or interest in announcing it to the world. Those who make numerous posts online are trying hard to overcompensate the lack they feel. Get out and make real memories. Laugh and share with others in real time. Take a few pictures and videos. Here’s a challenge: Can you keep them offline?
- Make more phone calls and fewer texts. Nuances are missed in text messages, which can lend themselves to constant misunderstandings and hard feelings. People have relied on text messages in the same way that they have relied on social media to stay connected with real people. Text messaging affords a person the ability to make contact without having to expend any energy by being drawn into a lengthy conversation or to inconvenience others. Be the first to start conversations with new acquaintances to whom you said you would reach out but haven’t gotten around to it. Do it now. Start reaching out with vocal connections and pull yourself and others out of each other’s technological comfort zones. Your well-being depends on it.
- Set goals. Decide how you can improve your life and your connections with others without the aid of technology. Which changes would you like to make? Brainstorm with others and make it happen!
- Practice discipline. Each time you reach out to others, it becomes easier and more enjoyable. Focus on positive topics and steer clear of controversial matters such as politics and religion.
- Sidestep technology whenever possible. This is extremely important at a time when we are so dependent on technology. This is a huge vulnerability. There could be EMPs or any other technological glitch that could render all electronics useless. Don’t lose your way. Make real connections so that, should anything ever happen, you won’t even notice!
Danica De La Mora