Closely Distant Connections

Another personal observation and thought post.

About a week ago, I went out for a very long walk with my girlfriend, culminating in about 6 to 7km of walking time over a couple of hours on a sunny day. We trekked through the city I’m in and found a park I was looking for, then trekked through that too, finding stray cat couples sleeping on abandoned chairs, a hilltop overlooking the coastline, and a tiny van with an old guy that sold ice cream – which turned out delicious.

It was pretty cool. We then made our way back to my place which was another long walk, and on the way back we went to a restaurant I dig because their chicken is cooked to absurd levels of goodness.

So we sat down and chowed down on this food, enjoying the flavours and having a small chat too.

I then noticed to the left of me, in the corner, a mother and presumably her daughter, who were seated and waiting for food to arrive. The mum was looking down at the table waiting patiently for food to arrive, and the daughter was glued to her phones screen, head down and eyes totally focused in on whatever dopamine rush was locking her in.

I made a mental note of this in my peripheral, and I’m quite sure the entire time they were there until we left, they didn’t say a word to each other. The daughter was on the phone almost the entire time.

I enjoyed my day greatly as did my girlfriend, but the image of that daughter and her mom sitting in deafening silence stayed with me, and a prevailing sense of sadness washed over me as to how disconnected it all was.

Smart phones and technology are by no means a bad thing – on the contrary, I utilize both almost constantly for my work, my writing, painting, singing, adulting, etc. It’s incredibly useful and a powerful means to function efficiently in society. It also allows for tremendous social capability, and many of my friends hail from dozens of different countries. A lot of them read this blog, too.

However, it cannot be a proper replacement for real human connection, and like many things around us, it can be utilized as a form of destruction, too. Objects are not intrinsically bad or good – it is in the user of the item that the action is committed with the object,  and thus it is the actor that makes a “bad” or “good” decision. But I digress.

I thought a lot about that relationship between the mother and daughter at the restaurant and contrasted it with my own. There was dead silence and zero connection between the mother and daughter, whilst I had noticed what my girlfriend was wearing as well as paying attention to the colour of lipstick and mascara she had on – she definitely dressed to impress me, that’s for sure. We barely used our phones, either – only once or twice to check the time and weather.

It was a matter of attention and connection. My girlfriend adores being around me because I am attentive and alive. It’s a nice time to be around me for most of my friends, because I’m not distant nor am I latched onto an object, distracted by its intricacies.

In contrast, the phone staring daughter had zero connection or communication with her mother. Perhaps there is a variable there I’m not aware of – an argument or some kind of relationship breakdown. However, this does not remove the problem, which is the problem of zero connection. After all, in order for one to solve a conflict, there must be some connection.

My point is that while we have tremendous access to technology, entertainment and the many other things that our smartphones can do, it cannot and never will replace a human being. It does not have the soul, the passion or the annoying argumentation that humans are very good at doing, and never will. And while that annoyance and irritation may be something that you want to steer yourself from, in the long term you go back to it anyway – because part of that annoyance is part of what makes the human you converse with fun and engaging.

Phones will constantly upgrade and technology will only improve, too – but humans, like all living organisms, eventually expire.

In other words, try to remember to put the phone down, look the person you’re with in the eyes and notice them a little more and have a conversation. Perhaps it may not seem like something that is important, but I sincerely believe that by not doing so, and not being fully engaged with the people around you, your skills to communicate and connect with others will atrophy to a significant degree.

You will no longer be able to notice the things about people that make them different from others. You might have difficulty making eye contact because it’s a completely unnatural thing after averting from it for so long. Your ability to seduce and engage with someone you’re attracted to will be rendered completely impotent, because you’ve lost the capability to pay attention.

And finally, you may, one day, not be able to sit down with that person at a café and have a conversation with them again. Life, and living beings, have a finite amount of time. Use it wisely. The phone won’t go anywhere, the person in front of you eventually will.

Trust me on this one.


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