As part of our new year’s resolution, my Darling and I decided to spend this year becoming more unplugged. That’s not to say we are going to completely give up our phones, throw away our computers and shun the Internet. Unfortunately, that is almost impossible to do, especially since it’s our primary form of communication these days.
However, we have both noticed that the more we spend on our phones, the less communicative we become, even with each other. Between work and school and running 9 Bridges, 2015 saw us getting rather reclusive. Moving to the suburbs at the end of that year only made our isolation worse, because we found ourselves spending our energy feathering the nest instead of cultivating new friendships or holding on to old ones. Friends that lived more than a few miles away (which was most of them) dropped off in typical Portland fashion – nobody (including us) really likes to drive across town unless forced to. By the end of 2016, most of our communication with friends and family slowly degraded to posts and comments between fellow Facebook junkies.
Now Facebook can be a good way to stay in touch with people far away, but at the same time, it’s a dangerous addiction. It cultivates a culture based on immediate gratification with no room for differing opinions. The election season last year brought out the worst in people and by the end of the year my darling and I stopped posting much beyond sugary memes and cat videos. Even our conversations with each other lessened, and we finally got to the point where we could spend hours in the same room together, side-by-side, not saying a word while we got our social media fix from other people.
This year we resolved to focus on creating lasting and REAL friendships – including building up our own relationship with each other. That means talking more and spending less time on our phones. More time reading and less time watching TV. More time writing and/or drawing, and less time surfing the Internet in search of cat videos. It also means realizing that good solid friendships can’t subsist solely by liking and commenting on posts regularly. Relationships need the nourishment of communication and face-to-face time. They need to hear laughter and have shoulders to cry on. They need hugs and kisses and body language and intonations. In other words, real friends can hardly be virtual.
At the same time, this is a scary thought for the reclusive and introverted Harringtons. Maintaining friendships through social media is so much easier and safer. There’s really no risk – if someone says something that rubs us wrong, then we can simply turn off their feeds, stop commenting on their posts, “unfriend” them and disappear. It’s so much easier to shrug off a lost friendship when your only contact is through social media. And in turn, we expect that the friends who have suddenly dropped off our radar have felt the same way. It’s so much harder to reach out and admit that something they’ve done has hurt, or discuss where we don’t agree – without raised voices, in a grown-up manner. But that is really what true friendship is all about – being able to disagree and still find things we share in common.
So this year we will be loosening our dependencies on social media and traveling outside our neighborhood (and comfort zone). We’ve resolved to turn off the computers and phones and television while we eat, in order to actually talk to each other. We’re planning to get outside more and explore this wonderful place we live in before we get to old to see it. Most of all, we are going to interact with our friends (old and new) in real time. That means that if you consider us friends and you aren’t more than 500 miles away, then we want to see you, exchange hugs and break bread with you at least once this year. If you are more than 500 miles away, we need to start calling each other regularly. No excuses.