How often do we hear that phrase, and what does it mean to you to connect with someone? In today’s world, connecting usually means to link up and communicate via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or other internet sites/services. Our world is ever-evolving and moving at a faster pace all the time. While these services are invaluable when it comes to contacting and staying in touch with people, I wonder how “connected” they really make us. Let’s consider the relationships we’re building in terms of what is the truest essence of the word.
Here are just a couple of definitions for connect I found in the dictionary: 1- to join or unite; 2 – to have or establish successful communication. I like to think that when we connect with someone, we have more than just a surface relationship. These services do a great job of joining us, but I question their ability to truly establish successful communication, unite us or help us go much deeper than the surface. Let’s examine these three concepts further.
Do they really help us establish successful communication? I think in some ways they can and do when they are used correctly. By correctly, I mean people who communicate using these tools abide by the same rules as they do when communicating face to face. The trouble is, far too many people engage in cyber-bullying and ranting and all sorts of behavior that they wouldn’t dream of doing without the distance and/or anonymity of the internet. Far from uniting us, it is this very type of behavior that is unraveling the fabric of our society. I wouldn’t call communication that constantly tears another person or group down or goes on and on about one’s pet peeves successful.
I believe to be successful, communication must be open and honest with both sides courteously hearing what the other has to say, but all too often, communication on the internet is meant to be one way. EVERYBODY LISTEN TO ME! I think about all the harm words can do when we forget about those on the receiving end, and that’s too easy to do in the cyber world. People become too brave behind the safety of their keyboard, and all too often, they forget their manners. Many want to be heard, but they don’t want to hear. Stephen Covey said something very wise that could be applied here: “Seek first to understand then to be understood.”
For us to understand others and connect on more than just a surface level, we need to get back to the basics of good old fashioned communication, and that is face to face interactions where we can look each other in the eye as well as read each other’s body language to better understand one another. There are countless stories about people getting offended by e-mails simply because the recipient detected a “tone” that wasn’t there. That still happens in face-to-face contact but not nearly as often. Along with the words we speak and how we speak them, the physical cues of body language are crucial to effective communication, and we can’t get that on the internet.
Use the internet, but don’t let it use you. Don’t let it entrap you and make you forget the things you need to make true connections. We all have the human need to feel another’s presence and energy. We need eye contact and the opportunity to read the body language of a living, breathing person right in front of us in order to stay truly connected and develop deep, meaningful relationships. In his book, “In An Unspoken Voice, Peter Levine, PhD, put it this way, “Face-to-face, soul-to-soul contact is a buffer against the raging seas of inner turmoil.”
We need to be with each other to be physically and mentally healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to send someone a quick text or e-mail or post to internet blogs, but if we are going to connect on a deeper level, or keep current connections strong, we are going to have to close our laptops, put away our cell phones, get off our duffs and get out into the real world and meet people face to face. Stop sending e-mails and texts that say, “We really need to get together sometime.” Take action, set a date, and connect!
Real connections are made in the real world. I challenge each of you this week to choose at least one friend or family member you have only connected with online for a long while. Call and let them hear your voice inviting them out to lunch or some other activity you both enjoy. Cute smiley face emojis and cyber hugs are poor substitutes for the real things. Let those you care about feel your love and energy. If we are to stay connected on a deeper, more meaningful level, it’s going to take effort on our part. I know you love your friends and family as much as I do. Let’s make whatever effort it takes. Let’s connect!