We've entered the best time of year to be in New York City: The Holiday Season!
I love giving gifts. It's such a special way to both showcase, and enhance our connection to others. What's better than the look on someone's face when they open the perfect gift you chose for them? I fly home to Ohio every Christmas to see my family and friends, and reconnect, and that trip somehow seems to start weeks in advance, as I wander around the maze-like market above, picking out each gift with care. We connect online, on the phone, and via text messages pretty regularly, but even a long, uninterrupted phone call is only a shadow of a real conversation in person, when eye contact, and body language add so many layers of meaning to the extent that words can become superfluous.
Just yesterday I was hanging out by the Farmer's Market, waiting to meet up with my wonderful friend Rebecca, when someone went walking down Union Square West. It seems likely this person had a mental illness, because he was carrying on a very loud conversation with no one at all. I covertly watched him walking purposefully down the street, shouting away, and was suddenly reminded of my facebook feed: people holding a continual conversation with nobody in particular. I realized that what compels this man to continue talking is probably the same thing that compels us to update our statuses: the human need for connection. This guy was satisfying his craving to express himself to other human beings, but he was failing miserably at building real relationships. What makes our twitters, instagrams, and facebooks so different? What makes this blog so different, for that matter?
It's obviously not a bad thing to share things about ourselves with others via our internet social networks. I do like reading what a friend I haven't seen in a while is up to. It makes me feel more in the loop, and that makes me more comfortable picking up the phone and making a lunch date.
But what if it doesn't inspire you to connect in a more genuine way? What if you satisfy your craving to express yourself and connect through these shallower mediums, and never go the extra mile to forge and nurture real relationships? We can easily end up with five-hundred facebook friends, and only a couple real ones.
This time of year, when so many of us go to great lengths to connect in person, let's gently remind ourselves to take regular breaks from our computers and phones, and remember how critical in-person status updates are to relationships, and to humans.
Why not wrap up this blog post and give that friend a call?