The other day I was explaining an idea I had to a friend of mine, who lives a gazillion miles away from me. I realised verbally articulating it wasn’t working, so decided to take a screen-grab of a sketch I’d made of my concept and sent it to her.
Waiting on her to marvel at my work of brilliance, I was taken aback when instead she exclaimed in hushed tones, “Is that what your handwriting looks like? I’ve never seen it before.”
It seems ludicrous that despite her and I having known each other for almost a decade, participating in weekly 2 – 4 hour phone conversations and countless daily instant messaging chats, she hadn’t ever seen my handwriting before.
How had that happened?
Reflecting on this anomaly I was reminded of a night I was trawling the corridors of Twitter when I came across some rather distressing tweets from a then-colleague. As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I don’t mess around when I see someone in distress that falls on what I consider to be “the suicidal spectrum” and that’s what I came across. This colleague had an open profile and was sharing some pretty sad and intimate details about their life to about 300 people that evening (most of whom were perfect strangers) and yet, in real life was one of the most private and emotionally distant people I had ever met.
I remember responding to one of their more distressing messages and affirming that they were not alone and that they mattered. I also made a mental note to make time to have a chat with them the following day, to make sure they were okay.
The next day the strangest thing happened, upon catching them alone making coffee I broached the topic of their late night tweets and was coldly rebuffed and informed that it was “no thing”. It seemed that it was one thing to the share private information to an audience of strangers on Twitter and another to have a one-on-one conversation with an empathetic party.
All these memories and insights led to me believe that despite having so many ways to communicate and reach each other, we as a species are failing spectacularly at true intimacy and being connected, more than ever.
I love WhatsApp’ing as much as the next person, but I really prefer phone calls. Hearing the subtle modulations in the timbre of someone’s voice, depending on the time of the day you catch them, can tell you more than a string of emojis can.
My inbox gets flooded on a daily basis by communications that rarely get me excited about, well anything. However, I can’t tell you the last time I received a handwritten letter via post. I miss being mesmerised by the stamps in the top right-hand corner (that always offer a clue as to whom the sender of the correspondence could be) and I miss trying to decipher someone’s handwriting, no matter how cryptic or badly formed their cursive is.
Only a daily basis we are afforded a front row view into the lives of many individuals via social media. We know what they do for a living, their children’s names, their favourite colours, their passions, their passing fancies, their pain and what they value above all else. I follow a lot of individuals on multiple platforms whose thoughts, pictures and captions grab my heart and leave me equal parts inspired and wistful. Yet, despite all this visual data and shared insights I know that no matter how personal the sentiment or the shot shared, the truth is that 95% of the events that take place in these peoples live, that are never captured by tweet or camera, and these most of the time are the ones that truly count – the ones that don’t require any form of validation from curious eyes.
You know the moments I’m talking about, the ones when you believe no one is paying attention, when you drop your guard and go about the business of doing life and speaking your mind – in solitude or in company. You aren’t #flawless in these moments, you’re better than that…you are real and unfiltered. These are the truly intimate moments that the privileged few have access to (sans accompanying duckface, of course).
When I was looking for an accompanying picture to go with this post I plugged in “intimacy” on Google images and was bombarded with black & white stills of half clad couples in some embrace of some sort. Although I believe that intimacy can be physical I do not believe that it should be confined to that definition or be synonymous with relationships of a romantic nature or some form of nudity. It’s limiting and begs redefinition.
For goodness sake, we live in a world where we are more likely to see someone naked or receive unsolicited pictures of their genitalia than we are to see (or recognise) their handwriting.
It’s utter madness!
So more face-to-face chats and fewer phone calls;
More phone calls and fewer instant messages;
More long-winded text messages
and fewer emoji-only responses;
More handwritten letters and fewer emails;
More rambling conversations and less self-editing;
More happy tears, sad tears & no-freaking-way tears and less apathy;
More moments lived in and less focus on capturing a moment; and
For the love of all that is good,
more sincere personal connections
and less dick/vag pics!