My novel was published a few months ago and that’s a great accomplishment for my fifth decade.
But I realize more than ever, that I need to see your face.
I have been meeting with people face-to-face. I’m good at connecting and want to make it as real as possible.
But to scale up to make my novel a bestseller, you have to connect with people in the online space. Lots of them. That’s the game today. One friend said you have to make a connection to people that have little to no emotional connection to you. He’s right.
But remember even in the online space, people are connecting emotionally with you, even, if it’s greatly obscured.
We think we’re more connected than ever. But it’s nearly impossible. Everyone is seemingly accessible on social media, but like the medium itself, it’s a kind of hell today. You’re so close, but yet, more distant than ever.
It takes draconian effort today just to meet in person. A phone call is a start.
But I can’t even find your number anymore!
Unlike the 1990s, when I had everyone’s name and phone number in a planner, it’s more difficult to track down friend’s phone numbers and emails.
My contact lists are in ruins.
And even if I have them, it’s harder to call for some reason.
Maybe here’s why:
Social media and prolonged online interaction promote a false sense of intimacy. We all thought seeing the achievements and pictures of your friends online was a social glue. But this online voyeurism is no social glue at all.
It’s killing our character.
I took an online writing class at Stanford Continuing Studies a few years ago. I hated it.
Compared to the in-person classes I’ve taken, it felt empty. People were afraid to engage and be honest. I felt disengaged and disconnected in that online writing workshop.
I did much better when there were writers sitting along. We looked into each others eyes when we talked. I would come home exhilarated and alive!
Research by Paula Klemm and Thomas Hardie bears that out. They compared face-to-face, in-person groups with online cancer support groups. They found they were statistically similar except for one thing: the participants’ moods. Most (92 percent) of the participants in the electronic groups were depressed, while none of the participants in the in-person group were!
The more time we spend on the internet, the less time spent with friends, family and colleagues. We accure hours on our computers each day. Whatever the benefits, that’s mostly time spent alone.
As Susan Pinker said in her book, the Village Effect, the “come-hither” aspect of electronic media has pulled the wool over our eyes, convincing us that different ways of making contact are the same as being there. Our electronic networks are expanding, but our social networks are staying the same and the people we feel close to has shrunk.
Pinker goes on to say, given that the only person many Americans say they can trust is their spouse, it turns out that many of us are just one person away from being alone!
So it turns out being married or having close buddies you rarely ever see isn’t enough.
Being married to your computer doesn’t work either.
Go into a Starbucks in any town in America now and you’ll see half the people having a date with their computer.
Being in touch with your friends in the middle distance can breed contempt. And can generate complacency.
The cliché familiarly breeds contempt isn’t true.
Why? Because face-to-face contact, by far, creates a sense of oneness, satisfaction and fun. Amazingly, that close connection attracts the other to us even more. And vice versa.
It’s too late to throw out my tablet, iphone and computer. But the truth is I just need to bring things back to the future.
The 1990s me started the novel had an overwhelming preference to face-to-face communication. That same desire is alive today! That’s how we’re wired.
Our ability to connect with anyone 24/7 with technology hasn’t led to an uptick in well-being. Has it made you better? Let me know.
By and large we’re lonelier and unhappier than we were in the decades before the internet age, according to a 2004 study of households in the United States and the U.K.
My present self that just turned 50 sees the need for the authentic and frequent face-to-face contact. I’m on the road to repairing and replacing face-to-face relationships I’ve lost. But trust me, it’s hard work even for a extroverted, positive guy like me!
I’m doing it for the sake of my well being, health and longevity.
I’m sorry, I’ve not been the best friend!
Let’s start small and connect. I’m calling it Operation Connection to You.
A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.